Ballet News Reviews | Richmond Park by Alex Saberi
It’s a great time for photography enthusiasts and professionals alike. First we had Darcey Bussell’s wonderful photo-biography which was a visual delight and now Richmond Park, by Alex Saberi, a professional photographer who has spent 7 years compiling the exquisite photographs that document the home of The Royal Ballet School (White Lodge, which is mentioned in the book) in astounding seasonal detail. A coffee table book with a compelling cover, showcasing the Park’s most famous residents – the herd of 630 Fallow and Red Deer, who can live to 20 years or more, which is double that of their counterparts in the wilds – this is a comprehensive view of Europe’s largest park – it is as big as the seven other royal parks combined! The text is by John Karter, who recounts the tale of the magical tree, a shrew ash (now lost in the storm of 1987) that had supernatural healing properties. Magic trees! For many, Richmond Park is a way of life, and here’s why.
The park – all 2350 acres of it with a perimeter of 8 miles, made from specially made bricks which are themselves a Grade 11 listed structure – was enclosed by Charles 1 in 1637, with the aim of keeping it to himself and his guests, but today around 2.5 million people pass through the gates every year. Besides the famous deer, there are also 119 bird species, 730 butterfly & moth species, 1350 beetle species 9 of the UK’s 17 bat species as well as foxes, rabbits and shrews. There are also around 130,000 trees, some of which are 700 years old, and a rare black poplar and a handkerchief tree, plus 450 plant species. Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to witness nature at it’s most unguarded ? It doesn’t matter how many times you visit, there is always something new and spectacular to surprise you. An aquatic jumbo jet ? That’ll be the Canada goose.
In 1992 Richmond Park was designated London’s largest Site of Special Scientific Interest; in 2000, a National Nature Reserve; and in 2005, a European Special Area of Conservation. The park’s environmental standards merit a Green Flag award.
What is immediately apparent is the time and skill taken to achieve these photographs. Placement, timing, patience, the right weather on the right day with the right wildlife in shot…. anyone familiar with the park and its landscape will notice familiarities with these photographs – as well as an empathy for the subject. If you’ve never seen the park – if ever there was an incentive to visit, this book will deliver it in spades. And if you are a keen photographer – you’ll be shouting “I wish I’d taken that shot!” and then, maybe you will…
Fiver and Bigwig from Watership Down having nothing on the rabbits in Richmond Park, who, along with the roaring stags, floating swans, hawk-eyed kestrels and timid hinds, make up this incredible and diverse habitat.
Just 8 miles from central London, this oasis of calm offers many highlights, including a bronze age artefact called King Henry’s Mound, from which you can spy St Paul’s Cathedral.
Spring is heralded in the park by bursts of green and lilac, shown in the photos with bracken and birds, as well as dramatic purple skies. Summer blasts in with red and orange and a touch of flax. Pink nosed parakeets and bronzed ducks. Autumn is golden and dusky, with stags at loggerheads and the most photogenic season of the year. Everything but the deer is winding down; for them, it’s all go, as depicted in the cover shot. You can literally feel the chill creeping over the pages as winter approaches and the geese depart. The stags have bellowed their last, thick mists, frost and snow take over the landscape to dazzling effect that tinges the ground with blue. White magic! Fallow Deer lose their spots; the geese put on their ice skates; the bizarre parakeets and their tropical colours look like they’ve been left behind.
Richmond Park, by Alex Saberi is available now (make the most of free postage as the book is a vast, heavy tome!) :