The Art of Reed Cutting

In this months (March 2014) Suffolk Norfolk Life Magazine on page 27 you’ll find an illustrated feature I worked on with a real Norfolk character.

I spent a couple of days working with and chatting to Wally Mason, one of the few remaining reed cutters on the Norfolk Broads. It was a wonderful insight into his work, his life and indeed what it takes to work as a reed cutter. Although it was bright blue skies, let me assure you, it was anything but warm…. I actually think it was the coldest I had been on a job!

Below is a snippet from the article

“The Broads were truly alive back then” he says ” When I was working on my own I would be out about 5am, rowing up river it would be complete silence until about 6am when nature would start to come alive” looking wistfully across the island towards Burgh Castle he continues “It would be about 7:30am when you would hear the odd farm tractor cough and splutter as it started up, shortly followed by plumes of smoke and a whistle or two as the steam train passed by at Strumpshaw” “It was magical”.

As we open the flask of tea  two Cormorants dart across the sky, which holds our attention for a while before I am nudged and Wally points out a Bittern which is sitting amongst the reed on the water’s edge. It takes my eyes a moment to focus on the rather special and shy bird. Having not seen these secretive birds so close, I feel rather lucky. “it’s part of what makes this job special” he says, which I can really believe. There is no doubt about it, the scene and the life of a reed cutter has a somewhat magical and romantic feel about it, sitting here, drinking tea and watching nature play out in front of us is very special, but alas it is not long until I am reminded just how tough it can be.

Casually picking up two bundles of reed and manoeuvring them onto his head, Wally encourages me to do the same, so following his instructions to the tee, I bend down and hoist the single bundle upon my head, struggling with my footing and just about managing to lift the reed up and above, ready to walk. I have no doubt this isn’t a job which can be taken lightly.”

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About Julian Claxton

My passion for photography is supported by experiences gained on exciting travel adventures and through working for fantastic photographers. In 2006, I made the exciting step of realising my dream of becoming a freelance photographer. Since this pivotal moment, I have held numerous exhibitions, been featured nationally & internationally in print and won numerous awards, including being a finalist in the National Geographic Photographic competition in 2013 with one of my documentary images from the Sudan. From an early age I began to enjoy taking pictures of my daily life, basking in the thrill of sending the film to the printers and eagerly awaiting the pocket sized prints. My first foray into the world developing and printing strangely began at school when I was asked to produce a descriptive photo for the school newspaper. A front page shot later and I was destined to start the long arduous journey of becoming a photographer. In between exciting travel adventures and working for fantastic photographers, I graduated from college and at a crossroads in my journey to becoming a pro photographer, I embarked on a career working as a medical photographer. Learning new skills and dabbling in video production as well as progressing design skills, I yearned for the challenge and freedom of becoming a freelance. I have been fortunate enough to work on some amazing assignments which have included shooting a documentary assignment with an air ambulance, gaining full access to a British Pro cycling team during an international UCI tour, cycling to Rwanda and creating a photographic documentary of my journey. The experiences continue to grow, meeting wonderful people to photograph and telling the story of their journey. The list of events and striking moments that have played out through my viewfinder continue to grow and provide me with ever increasing snapshots of life to capture. One of the highlights of my career thus far has been staying in rural Uganda, teaching photography to the kids from the region, in a project I set up in late 2014, entitled ‘Give a child a camera’. The basis of the project is to supply 35mm cameras and film to the rural schools in this region of East Africa, teaching the children how to shoot photographs. After a week of taking photos of their life, an exhibition is held at the school and the children leave with their very own album, camera and film. One of the images I shot at Eden school in rural Uganda, during morning chapel won the 2015 Travel Media Tourism and Photography award. A great honour and one that I wouldn’t have picked up had it not been for the wonderful children of East Africa. For further information please visit
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