This month we will be hosting the next stage of an ambitious tour of works by the late Magnum photographer, Peter Marlow.

The free and exceptional photographic exhibition chronicling all 42 naves of England’s Anglican cathedrals, Peter Marlow: The English Cathedral, will be on show from 31 January - 2 March 2023. Organised by the Peter Marlow Foundation, the charity set up to continue Peter’s legacy, the aim is that this ethereal collection of images will exhibit at each of the 42 cathedrals he visited on his photographic pilgrimage across England. The exhibition will be on display in the south side nave aisle during normal cathedral opening hours.

Peter’s photographic portrait of Hereford Cathedral, photographed towards the end of his pilgrimage, stands out from its peers as it captures the contemporary suspended silver gilt stainless steel artwork, The Corona, 1992, created by Simon Beer. Symbolising both Christ’s Crown of Thorns and his Crown of Glory, it also represents the deaneries in the Diocese of Hereford and is a dramatic focal point that contrasts with the ribbed vaults and flying buttresses above typical of the Cathedral’s original 13th century Gothic architecture.

To accompany the exhibition of the 42 cathedrals, Hereford Cathedral has also scheduled a unique ticketed event open to the public - The Cathedral At Dawn: Photography Experience. Here photographers will be able to experience, like Peter before them in 2011, the unrivalled sense of peace and tranquillity in the Cathedral at dawn. Led by freelance photographer Caroline Potter and assisted by cathedral photographer Gordon Taylor, participants will have the wonderful opportunity of capturing the building without interruptions and before the business of the day begins. Following the session, attendees will be invited to submit a photograph on social media for the public to vote on. The photographer of the favourite image will win a prize and the unique opportunity to have their photo on display within Hereford Cathedral. The Cathedral At Dawn: Photography Experience will take place on Thursday 9 February 2023 at 7am with tickets available here:

The Very Revd Sarah Brown, Dean of Hereford, says of the exhibition, “There is something very unique about the peace of a cathedral at dawn. The tranquillity that exists before anyone else arrives is a remarkable thing and truly gives the individual chance to pause and reflect. We look forward to welcoming visitors to view this stunning collection of photographs, which show just how special these sacred spaces are.”

In 2008 Peter (b. UK, 1952 - 2016) was commissioned by Royal Mail on the 300th year anniversary of the completion of St Paul’s Cathedral to photograph six Anglican Cathedrals that were issued as commemorative stamps. So taken was he by these initial magnificent interiors that he set out to photograph all 42, guided over the next three years by a copy of English Cathedrals (1989) by Edwin Smith and Olive Cook and a pack of Anglican Cathedrals of England Top Trumps Cards.

“What I thought was going to be incredibly simple became intricate, complicated, and utterly absorbing. The journey was memorable and wonderfully hypnotic, a kind of reflective pilgrimage. My cathedral days involved hours of driving and thinking, with my reference photographs drying in the sun on the dashboard. England passed by.” Peter Marlow, The English Cathedral.

The images appear deceptively simple in their composition and technical set-up. It was after much experimentation that Peter developed the perfect strategy to document these huge interior spaces and to highlight the many varied architectural nuances between the buildings. Shooting on large format film using only natural light, he set up in the same position at all but one of the cathedrals - looking east towards the nave and altar as the dawn light streamed through the main window. By ensuring all artificial lighting was turned off, a rarity in many of these buildings whose lights remain on constantly, he captured the cathedrals emerging from the darkness as if suspended in time and removed from the modern age. This end result can be regarded as a contemporary update to the long tradition of church photography in England, namely Frederik Evans’ late 19th century imagery and Edwin Smith’s mid- 20th century work.

Peter’s remarkable photographs bring into sharp relief the full splendour of the interiors of some of England’s most magnificent buildings, great symbols of spiritual and architectural power.

“When immersed in Peter’s photographs we are metaphorically in some kind of contemplative enclosure, if not a sanctuary: one that confronts us with our own sense of being. The forms captured here are simultaneously concrete and abstract: containers of history, light and, above all, space. Despite of, and in parallel with, the undeniable structure of the architectural edifice, Peter captures the intangible essence of all form that is generated by creative force: the enduring mystery of space within space.” Martin Barnes ‘The English Cathedral’.

As part of the touring exhibition, Peter Marlow: The English Cathedral, the Peter Marlow Foundation has sought to take the visitor’s experience one step further by placing them in the role of photographer to take their own photographic ‘portraits’ of the exhibition at Hereford Cathedral. When he photographed the 42 Anglican cathedrals for the series, Peter took extensive time and preparation prior to and during the process in capturing the final photograph displayed here in the exhibition. Part of this process was the use of Fujifilm FP 100 Instant film to test the view and the exposure of each shot. In recognition of this Fujifilm has supplied instax cameras and film at the exhibitions on the tour. Visitors are asked to take photographs of the exhibition in-situ and the visitors it attracts, utilising the example photographs by some of Peter’s fellow Magnum photographers, Elliott Erwitt, David Seymour (Chim), Chris Steele-Perkins, Stuart Franklin and David Hurn.

These instant photographs will create an interactive ever changing display that will be shared as part of the exhibition but also on the social media channels and websites of Magnum Photos, Hereford Cathedral and Peter Marlow Foundation to create a contemporary public response to the works. Having these instant images allowed for an immediate assessment of the composition as well as creating an additional accompanying set of photographs. For each hosting cathedral, Peter Marlow Foundation will choose a winner. This person will be awarded an Estate Stamped Fine Print of a cathedral photograph of their choice.

A sold-out monograph of Peter Marlow’s The English Cathedral was published by Merrell in 2012 with a second edition in 2015. Featuring texts by Martin Barnes, Senior Curator of Photographs at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) London, and John Goodall, architectural editor of Country Life magazine, it also includes Peter’s own account of his ‘cathedral days’ as well as his technical commentary of how he achieved these intensely detailed images. A full set of the prints are held in the V&A’s permanent collection.