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Travelling in a Strange Land

A Collaboration with David Park

  • So now is the time this thing must be done. Now is the time to start this final journey.
  • So just for a few seconds I'm mindful of all the people who've made this same journey and the passengers around me are replaced by a silent collage...
  • Of all the women carrying sadness in their wombs forced to seek help far from family and home.
  • There's a cold sweep of stillness amongst the trees that feels absolute and which seems to reach to the very edge of us.
  • My own son’s hands, the physical embodiment of the life I have helped bring into the world. Nothing has ever matched the strength of that awareness.
  • It's as if the breathing is still present even in the empty room and the memories are somehow seamlessly fused with the folds of a fabric or the grain of a surface.
  • Is every son destined to become his father? Are these shaking hands his afterlife in me?
  • Everything is wrong, nothing is in the right place and I am powerless to affect its trajectory.
  • You become a shadow that moves across the house...
  • ...then fades into missing days.
  • Standing perfectly still I stand and stare trying to see him but there are no prints in the snow.
  • Sometimes I don't think I want to go home, go anywhere, but instead make some new kind of life hidden in these streets and passageways...
  • ...as if the great spaces of the night and the frantic clamour of bars and restaurants are contracted into something my hand can touch...
  • ...so I let my fingers brush the brickwork and try to capture the silent emptiness with my camera.
  • The world is tinselled and baubled and time itself is filled with an expectancy to which we can't supply a precise ending.
  • I glimpse him in many places, always fleetingly and never long enough for me to raise my hand and call out to him.
  • I force myself to look at it, try to think of some prayer to say but no words come.
  • ...for every soul in need of shelter...for every traveller, lost like him in a strange land.
  • And I have come to understand the truth of what Ansel Adams said that you don’t make a photograph just with a camera but that you bring to the act all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard and the people you have loved.


 Travelling In A Strange Land is a creative collaboration with the highly acclaimed writer David Park.  It is my artistic response to his novel of the same title which was published by Bloomsbury in March 2018. The works explore a reflective journey through the themes of familial love and loss.

“When Sonya read the first draft of the novel it was clear she possessed intuitive and deeply personal insights into its themes and  preoccupations.  The photographs she has produced journey to the heart of what I was trying to achieve and also illuminate aspects that have been hidden in my own consciousness.  The images captured reveal both a tenderness and a sense of intellectual strength. In the external world portrayed and the shadowed interiors of the heart, her eye has captured again and again what I have struggled to express in words and I am full of admiration for her art”  David Park

When David and I first met we shared the influence on our work of the photographer Bill Brandt and his passion for shadows and light. So with that connection and armed with an old Mamiya camera, I set out to bring the central character’s love of the art of photography alive as well as bringing my own personal response to his story.

I have worn it like a coat, resonating with its themes:  from the struggles of being a parent, the feelings of estrangement that follow loss to the discovery of light and beauty out of the darkness.  

These selected images with text were exhibited as part of the John Hewitt Summer School in July 2018 at the Market Place Theatre, Armagh. 

To purchase prints, please contact Sonya directly.


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