The University of Cambridge is a world leading seat of learning and at the heart of each of its thirty one colleges sits a library, the hub that preserves books, manuscripts and documents and which has disseminated knowledge down the generations. Photographer Sara Rawlinson has turned her lens onto these contemplative places, which are often hidden from public view, in her project “Illuminating Cambridge Libraries”.
As well as wider shots of the libraries, Sara particularly likes to concentrate on tiny details of structures and textures such as radiator grilles, bolts, shelving systems and their numbering. Sara will be showing images from twenty five college libraries at her “Illuminating Cambridge Libraries” exhibition which is happening at the Heong Gallery in Downing College from 11 – 17 February. The exhibition will also feature several rotating pyramidal lecterns designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the late 17th century and which are being loaned by the Wren Library at Trinity College.
Sara grew up in Minnesota, USA, working throughout her childhood alongside her photographer grandmother in the dark room. She went on to have a very successful research and academic career, taking a PhD in Seismology and Earth Sciences and subsequently running a Masters degree course in Natural Hazards at the Australian National University. Throughout her scientific career, Sara continued to take art classes and eventually left the academic world to pursue her love of photography. She relocated to Cambridge with her husband and young daughter a couple of years ago and now runs a full time fine art photography studio from her home in the city.
Alongside the “Illuminating Cambridge Libraries” project, at the invitation of the Dean of Chapel at King’s College, Sara has been photographing the historic Chapel in a new light with an artist’s eye, capturing images of areas that are hidden from view and tiny details that are often overwhelmed by the grandiosity of the space. It’s as well that Sara has a head for heights as she’s climbed the tiny stairwell and negotiated the narrow corridors to get on to the Chapel roof and has also, by serendipity, been up in a cherry picker (which was deployed to replace lights in the Chapel), allowing her to take some amazing shots from a lofty perspective.
Sara’s work was featured in the national press and online in 2018 as three of her images across both projects were shortlisted for the Historic Photographer of the Year award. She is a member of Cambridge Open Studios, a community of around five hundred artists, craftspeople and designer-makers working throughout Cambridgeshire. Last year, she transformed her house into a gallery for the first time to showcase her photography as part of the annual Open Studios event which takes place over weekends in July each year. This year, Sara is planning to show her work at Open Studios again but this time in the Cellarer’s Chequer in Beche Road, a Grade 2* listed building owned by Cambridge City Council which is on the site of Barnwell Priory and which is rarely open to the public.
The “Illuminating Cambridge Libraries” exhibition at the Heong Gallery will be open from 10.30am – 6pm each day from 11 – 17 February and entry is free. There will be a Private View on 11 February from 6.30 – 8.30pm which will include readings from Cambridge based poet Michael Brown of poetry he has written in Pembroke College Library. For more information on the exhibition, on Sara’s work, to register for the Private View and to buy prints, visit http://www.sararawlinson.com