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