[Today’s article is by Paul Seawright, the award-winning photographer for the newly released book, Abide With Me, from New Leaf Press.] 

Our first exploratory trip around Britain on the trail of sites relevant to great hymn writers was almost four years ago. I was living in Wales at the time, yet most of the places we visited were as new to me as they were to John [Parker] who lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

It’s always better to photograph unfamiliar places as they inevitably surprise you. We had both researched the sites and thought we knew what we might find and photograph. In reality it was often incidental moments and situations that presented the most inspirational subject matter.

Close to the end of our first tour of England we arrived in the small coastal town of Brixham in Devon. We had been fortunate enough to secure rooms at the Berry Head Hotel, perched on a rocky peninsula overlooking a beautiful bay. It was late afternoon and as John descended the path from the garden down to the sea, I began to make photographs of the evening sun playing on the side of the sprawling Victorian building, once the home of Henry Lyte. As I worked in the fading light a man sat on a bench in the garden to enjoy the setting sun over the water. It was as I photographed him silhouetted against the sky that I knew the project would be a success.

Henry Lyte wrote the words, “Abide with me, fast falls the eventide, when darkness deepens, Lord with me abide,” in this very garden. He, too, had looked out over that exact view all those years ago as the sun fell. The seascape I was photographing was as unchanged as the words that it inspired; words still sung in churches all over the world. At breakfast I showed John the picture of the anonymous man in Lytes garden and immediately we started making new plans…