Photo: UGANDA, 1951 — Self-portrait of photographer Thurston Hopkins. 2558757, © Getty Images.
In memory of Thurston Hopkins, the British photographer who died last week at the age of 101, here’s a small tribute by the blog ‘Britain is no country for old men’.
You can also read an obituary in the Guardian here.
Estuary England is a short film exploring the area around the Queen Elizabeth II Crossing at West Thurrock. It is the first part in a wider PhD study by Simon Robinson exploring the Thames Gateway region and the pull of the contemporary ‘empire of London’ in its surrounding satellite towns.
Estuary England from Simon Robinson on Vimeo.
Robinson is currently working on an AHRC funded practice based PhD, entitled Archipelagos of Interstitial Ground: Investigating edgelands in the UK through photographic practice at the University Of Arts London, working out of the Photography and the Archive Research Centre (PARC).
You can follow his progress via his blog Driving Thru Wasteland here: simonleerobinson.wordpress.com
Prints from We English will be included in a survey exhibition at the Multimedia Art Museum in Moscow, which presents work I’ve been making since 2005 after the completion of my Russian series, Motherland.
With renewed interest in the relationship of individuals and groups to the landscape, my work has focused on social practices, customs, cultural landmarks, economic and political scenarios that define this ‘small island’ as uniquely British. With echoes of ‘history painting’, the photographs point to contemporary issues specific to Britain, but equally engage with universal ideas of the human relationship to landscape, of identity and belonging.
Landscape Studies of a Small Island is presented as part of the UK Russia Year of Culture in 2014.
The exhibition is curated by Karen McQuaid from The Photographers’ Gallery, London.
More information here: http://www.mamm-mdf.ru/en/exhibitions/landscape-studies-of-a-small-island/
We English is featured in the third and final volume of Phaidon’s Photobook series, described as ‘the most important contribution to the field since modern histories of photography began to appear in the early 20th century’ (photo-eye) and produced by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger.
See more here.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Following the success of volumes I and II of The Photobook: A History, this third volume brings the history of the photobook up to date, with specific exploration of postwar and contemporary examples. It covers key themes including the globalization of photographic culture, the personalization of photobooks, the self-publishing boom and the new ‘layered’ photobook approach.
While the history of photographs is a well-established canon, less critical attention has been directed at the phenomenon of the photobook, which for many photographers is perhaps the most significant vehicle for the display of their work and the communication of their vision to a mass audience. Volume III, co-edited by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger, expands this study and history of the photobook further. It explores the symbiotic relationship between the contemporary propaganda book vs. the protest photobook, sex and youth culture, photographers examining their own environments and the impact of the Internet and social media on the nature of the photobook, among much else.
The book is divided into 9 thematic chapters, each featuring general introductory text providing background information and highlighting the dominant political and artistic influences on the photobook in the period, followed by more detailed discussion of the individual photobooks. The introductory chapter texts are followed by spreads and images from over 200 books, which provide the central means of telling the history of the photobook. Chosen by Parr and Badger, these illustrations show the most artistically and culturally important photobooks in three dimensions, with the cover or jacket and a selection of spreads from the book shown.
11 3/8 x 9 7/8 inches (290 x 250 mm)
900 color illustrations
February 17th, 2014 admin
Over the life of the We English blog I’ve attempted to add references to other photographic works which have explored notions of the English landscape and Englishness. You can see several of them on my Photographic Timeline and under Other Studies. Of course this is by no means an exhaustive list, rather an organic one which I rely on others to assist in building. I was therefore delighted to receive an email from a reader of the blog, Peter Hamilton, who was kind enough to suggest several books I’d missed. I’ve published the email below and added web links.
Please do email me with any more suggestions, or post them on the blog below. Thanks!
“I was very glad to see you have discovered Edwin Smith. Smith is important to mention because his books (for instance English Parish Churches, first pub 1952) conform to an earlier, broader and essentially illustrative photographic literature that is also about English landscape and thus Englishness – the modern form of “monographic” or “survey” work on particular places, communities, localities, etc being a far more recent thing, apart from some rare earlier and notable examples (cf. PH Emerson‘s work on East Anglia from the 1880s). Nonetheless, detailed photographic inventories of specific locales certainly existed in the 19th century as the source material for a market in postcards and prints for commercial sale.
As you will know, most of Smith’s work (apart from the didactic but fascinating volumes he wrote and illustrated for Focal Press) was done under commission from publishers to illustrate books on a particular topic, usually with a “known” writer (what the French term a “locomotive littéraire”). During his career there really was hardly any scope (or more properly market) for what we would call a photobook in the sense that it has come to have in recent years, and which is now in many ways a somewhat distorting lens for seeing the history of photography (though of course it does describe one contemporary paradigm for photographic publication).
It could be argued that historically-speaking the majority of the most influential photographic books have probably not been “photobooks” as defined in the Parr et al sense. In terms of launching public interest in photography for instance, the impact of the “Family of Man” book from 1955 was probably immensely greater than that of Frank’s “Americans“, which itself was far outdistanced even within the smaller circles of enthusiast photographers by HC-B’s “Decisive Moment/Images à la sauvette” of 1951. There are generational aspects to this question, of course.
So I think you could add several of the Smith books to the list – such as Parish Churches, England (with G. Grigson), English Cottages and Farmhouses, etc. There is a good bibliography in Elwall (here is link to Elwall’s article on Culture 24 ‘Edwin Smith: from English parish to Pompeii‘)
But my main point was to offer a couple of other practical suggestions/corrections on the Photographic Timeline re Ravilious and others.
Firstly, on James Ravilious.
His first book which I think should figure on your list was (1980) The Heart of the Country, with Robin Ravilious, London, Scolar Press. This displayed the first fruits of his work for Beaford Trust on North Devon land and people from c.1972.
In 2005 he published A Corner of England: North Devon Landscapes and People, Tiverton, Devon Books and Lutterworth Press. This also contains examples of his colour work, though the book was very poorly printed.
Can I also suggest you refer to An English Eye in its first edition (1998, Devon Books, Tiverton but printed quite well by Jackson Wilson in Leeds). The 2007 volume published by The Bardwell Press and printed by EBS in Verona is the 2nd edition, better printed though hardly changed except for the bibliography and couple of minor corrections.
In 2000 Down the Deep Lanes was published, with a text by Peter Beacham. This was a thematic book about characteristic aspects of the South-West’s landscape, vernacular architecture and rural communities using some photographs from the Beaford project, but mainly others specially made for it in Devon and Cornwall up to 1999, the year of Ravilious’s death. It was re-published in 2008 in a slightly revised second edition, again by The Bardwell Press.
Other work on England I think you might note:
John Berger and Jean Mohr (1967) A fortunate man: The story of a country doctor (1969, Penguin)
Chris Chapman (2000) Wild Goose and Riddon, Tiverton; Halsgrove.
Chris Chapman and James Crowden (2005) Silence at Ramscliffe, Oxford The Bardwell Press.
Patrick Sutherland and Adam Nicolson (1987) Wetland: Life in the Somerset Levels, London, Michael Joseph.
Adrian Arbib (2009) Solsbury Hill; Chronicle of a Road Protest, Oxford, The Bardwell Press.
Ian Beesley‘s work is interesting but is not easily accessible in book form for some reason.
John Davies (1987) Green and Pleasant Land, Manchester, Cornerhouse, was very influential, I believe.”
Peter Hamilton, 14 January 2014
November 19th, 2013 admin
For nearly a decade Jason Orton and Ken Worpole have collaborated on documenting the changing landscape and coastline of Essex, particularly its estuaries, islands and urban edgelands. They continue to explore many aspects of contemporary landscape topography and architecture. They have just released a new book called The New English Landscape.
The New English Landscape critically examines the changing geography of landscape aesthetics since the Second World War, noting the shift away from the arcadian interior to the contested eastern shoreline. It discusses how writers and artists gravitated towards East Anglia, and latterly towards Essex, regarding them as sites of significant topographical disruption, often as a result of military or industrial occupation.
These are landscapes of unique ecological and imaginative resonance, particularly following the Thames, and the islands and estuaries of its northerly coastal peninsula. The book assesses the past, present and future of this new territorial aesthetic, now subject to much debate in the contested worlds of landscape design, topography and psycho-geography.
The book contains 22 colour photographs, an 18,000 word essay, extensive bibliography, maps, and is a medium-to-large format paperback.
Ways to buy The New English Landscape can be found here.
September 13th, 2013 admin
Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr
21 September 2013 – 16 March 2014
The first major exhibition at the new Media Space in London will be Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr, drawing from the Tony Ray-Jones archive at the National Media Museum. The exhibition is curated by Greg Hobson, curator of Photographs at the National Media Museum, and Martin Parr has been invited to select works from the Tony Ray-Jones archives.
Find out more about the exhibition here: http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/visitmuseum/plan_your_visit/exhibitions/only_in_england.aspx
About Media Space-
Opening in September 2013, Media Space will showcase the National Photography Collection held by the National Media Museum through a series of major exhibitions. A collaboration between the Science Museum and the National Media Museum, Media Space will also invite photographers, artists and the creative industries to respond to the wider collections of the Science Museum Group to explore visual media, technology and science.
Media Space will be based on the second floor of the Science Museum. It is a £4 million capital project and will include a 500 m² gallery for major exhibitions, a Virgin Media Studio for installations, events and creative workshops, and a café/bar. Hannah Redler was announced as Head of Media Space and Science Museum Arts Programme in 2012.
Brighton Beach, 1952
(Gelatin silver print, 14 1/2 x 20 inches, 2010)
© Edwin Smith / RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection
I’ve recently been made aware of the work of Edwin Smith (1912 – 1971), the English architectural and landscape photographer (I’m slightly embarrassed to say I’d not come across his work before embarking on We English).
Here’s a short bio from the V&A’s website (they hold a collection of his prints) – Smith’s photographs illustrated many books dealing with ‘English Cottages and Farmhouses‘ (1954), ‘English Parish Churches‘ (1952) and ‘Hatfield House‘ (1973). From the Second World War onwards, Smith began to look at rural Britain and architectural subjects. In the 1950’s, he illustrated a number of books on the landscape and architecture of Britain, including English Parish Churches, English Cottages and Farmhouses and The English Gardens. By the time of his death in 1971 Smith had illustrated more than 30 such volumes. Apart from these numerous book commissions, he often photographed simply to note and capture nuances of civic life. His photographs are testimony to the sympathetic approach he adopted towards British life and landscape.
You can see a selection of Smith’s prints at Chris Beetles gallery in London and on their website here.
And there’s more about Smith’s work at these links-
Prints from We English on show at Somerset House as part of the Landmark: Fields of Photography exhibition. More information about the show here and additional installation shots on Flowers Gallery website here.
Image: Studying a We English print exhibited at Landmark, Somerset House, March 2013
The online magazine Distorted Arts has reviewed my We English work, which currently features in the Landmark Exhibition at Somserset House.
“Roberts’s photographs reside somewhere between documentary and pure landscape. Many of his images contain poignant vignettes set against dynamic panoramas. Camel Estuary is populated with staffage straining against one another. Their interaction enlivens the scene, while the tamed sea, blue sky and sweeping shore evoke the English tradition of land, leisure and pleasure.
A contemporary archive of Englishness; Roberts’s work captures people, places and events beautifully. Figures in the landscape are small, but significant – the Arcadian shepherds and smiling rural folk of a Victorian landscape are replaced by windswept trekkers, crowded stadiums and post-modern reverie.”
You can read the whole review here.
And you can see a slideshow with some of the images exhibited on the Guardian’s website here.
Landmark: The Fields of Photography at Somerset House from 14 March – 28 April 2013.