British photographer John Drysdale’s pictures can be deceptive. They seem to depict play — spontaneous fun and funniness, exquisite ease and frolic, the real and the surreal cozily at home in the world together. At bottom, Drysdale’s pictures reveal the emotion of love. Brimful of play, his guileless subjects luxuriate in strong and happy feeling, in loving and being loved. We see the conventional gestures and natural abandon of love, the ordinary moments of love, but among most unexpected and extraordinary mix of creatures. Beethoven claimed that next to love, the best things in life are surprises. And John Drysdale’s droll and elegant eye revels in surprise.
Whether we gasp or gape, or laugh and laud, we recognize the imperishable longing of the heart — and not just the human heart! — for affection. Pervading the strange and humorous beauty of Drysdale’s gaze, of his receptiveness to fleeting moments that enshrine the wit and wildness and tenderness of experience, is the verve of his subjects’ affection — affection that is unconstrained and unguarded and unambiguous, untutored and unselfconscious and uncomplicated.
With pictures that have the deft power to engage our serious reflection and to tickle laughter out of us, that have a sense of beauty and a sense of humor, Drysdale evokes a place of sunlit harmony and mirth, a peaceable kingdom, abounding in delights.
excerpt from Introduction to “Our Peaceable Kingdom”