Assignment 1: Researching photographers

I found myself gravitating towards photographers who took an interest in some of the more ephemeral aspects of landscape. The ‘square mile’ with which we are most familiar may seem permanent. We may walk the same path, see the same shops, pass the same buildings, travel on the bus or train with the same people, and feel that we ‘know’ our square mile. But perhaps this prevents us from noticing the small, imperceptible changes-the fading of the paint on our front door and window, the slow oxidisation of iron railings, the crumbling of brickwork or asphalt, the graffiti marks on the bus shelter.

In his series of photographs ‘Boredom To Burn’, Gawain Bernard (i) reflects upon wildfire burning that takes place each spring in the South Wales Valleys. Although he suggests that the blackened landscape may appear on one level to act as a metaphor for South Wales’s industrial past, the series concentrates upon small remnants left after the burn- a discarded spoon here, a clutch of burned eggs, the charred remains of a plant. The small details within the bigger picture. Looking beyond the obvious…

In his work “Self Burial”, Keith Arnatt reflects upon the ideas of slow disappearance and disintegration, seeking to understand the “ability of photography simultaneously to document what was there and transform it into something quite different… recording his presence at the point where it becomes absence.” (ii)

Self-Burial (Television Interference Project) 1969 by Keith Arnatt 1930-2008

Self-Burial (Television Interference Project) 1969 Keith Arnatt 1930-2008 Presented by Westdeutsches Fernsehen 1973


(i). (2017). Gawain Barnard. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Mar. 2017].

(ii). British Journal of Photography. (2017). Keith Arnatt: the conceptual photographer who influenced a generation. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Mar. 2017].

Fay Godwin

I first came across the work of Fay Godwin through her collaboration with the poet Ted Hughes, in a work entitled ‘Remains of Elmet‘ [Faber & Faber 1979].

“The Calder valley…was the last ditch of Elmet, the last British Celtic kingdom to fall to the Angles. For centuries it was considered a more or less uninhabitable wilderness, a notorious refuge for criminals, a hide-out for refugees. Then in the early 1800s it became the cradle for the Industrial Revolution in textiles….” [Ted Hughes. Preface to ‘Remains Of Elmet’]


At the time, it was Hughes poetry that drew me to the book. His words offering a bleak imagery which described the impact of industrialisation on the landscape.

“…Farms came, stony masticators
Of generations that ate each other
To nothing inside them.

The sunk mill-towns were cemeteries
Digesting utterly
All with whom they swelled…”

“Remains Of Elmet” Ted Hughes

Godwin’s photographs appeared as political statements, writ large. Landscapes that despite their beauty were raw, scarred and imperfect. Black and white imagery seemed to enhance the remoteness and isolation of the image whilst the depth of field seemed to support the view that “deep focus gives the eye autonomy to roam over the picture space so that the viewer is…given the opportunity to edit the scene…(and) to select the aspects of it to which he will attend” [Andre Bazin: Cited EYV p48]

Not that Godwin should be pigeon holed as a black and white landscape photographer, as this excerpt from an online interview with her in UK Landscape shows:

Q. The book “Glassworks & Secret Lives” (Your colour work) had to be self-published! why was that?

A. Because in the dreary British way I had been ‘pigeonholed’ as a black and white photographer, and at my age it was not permissible to move on.

Q. Is your dedication to Landscapes a way to resist against modernity?

A. What a thought! I passionately love modern architecture, design, modern ways of looking at landscape etc. What I loathe is the multi-national conglomerates who must take responsibility for the degradation and pollution of so much of our landscape with their factory farming and greed.

Yet after some 35 years since I first encountered her work, I’d like to think that she still has an influence…

Umkomaas, Kwa-Zulu Natal. John Callaway [2016]

Umkomaas, Kwa-Zulu Natal. John Callaway [2016]