Sarah Stanton Longdon: photographer

Picture by Caroline Bridges

The Chevin, an ancient track along a hill that rises above Belper to the west, has a very special place in the heart of photographer Sarah Stanton Longdon.

For the past 30 years she has lived in Tower Cottage at Milford, at the end of what remains of the prehistoric route used by the Romans to transport lead across the county.

Every day she walks her dogs there, her sons grew up playing among the centuries-old trees, and it is even the place where she met her husband Mark.

So it seems especially fitting that the pictures she takes of the Chevin are helping her photographic career take off.

At Belper Festival Arts Trail in the spring, her images of the landscape, with its marks made by both nature and man gained many favourable plaudits and even the admiration of one of Derbyshire’s best known photographers, Ashley Franklin.

“It is such a big reward for me for my work to be liked by people. It has changed everything for me. Not only do they like it, but they buy prints and I am being offered work,” she said enthusiastically.

Sarah was brought up in Windley, which is not too far from her home now, as the crow flies, so being surrounded by the beautiful Derbyshire landscape she has always been an outdoors girl.

“Living in the countryside was a huge influence on me when I was young and I have loved taking photographs for as long as I can remember.

“My family is a creative one, I’m one of five children and my parents surrounded us with music and art throughout our childhood.

“I had my first camera when I was about 12 and my grandfather, who was a typesetter and a keen photographer, had good eye gave me lots of feedback on my pictures. He was always explaining how I could improve what I had done and encouraging me.

“I really valued his opinions and with his ideas I would go out and try again with the picture. He really inspired me,” she said.

After school Sarah trained as a psychiatric nurse  but once her sons were at school she decided to pursue her creative side and enrolled at the University of Derby.

“I did an arts foundation year and then a BA in Graphic Design. I had an amazing time and loved it. What I learned has definitely influenced the composition, meaning and visual messages in my pictures.”

For several years Sarah then worked as a cover supervisor in the art, music and technology departments at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Ashbourne.

Three years ago she gave up the job to start her own business designing speciality cakes, but that business has now been nudged out of the way by the success of her photography.

She is a member of Derby City Photographic Club and the TOGS club run by Derby Telegraph photographer Victoria Wilcox.

“It is brilliant being a member of the clubs as they have given me a lot of opportunities to do things I would not normally have had access to, pushed me out of my comfort zone and given me more confidence.

“The one place I really love working is  the Chevin – I take pictures there almost every day. I love the rugged edges, the changing light and the shadows.

“I am especially interested in the scars and marks left on the landscape by farming, industry and geology. I am so lucky to live in such a special place.”

In the not too distant future Sarah hopes that she will be able to open up her own gallery at her home.

“I would really love to exhibit my work alongside other local photographers and artists and am really excited about it. Watch this space.”

Sarah has a facebook page sarahlongdonphotography