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-
This symposium at the V&A is a fantastic opportunity to explore the complex presence of the past, national identity, taste and nostalgia in relation to the Recording Britain collection of water colours and drawings produced at the start of World War II with both art historians and practicing artists. Speakers include Patrick Wright, David Heathcote, and artists Ingrid Pollard, Abigail Reynolds, Simon Roberts and Paul Scott. At the outbreak of the Second World War an ambitious scheme was set up to employ artists on the home front. The result was a collection of more than 1500 watercolours and drawings that make up a fascinating record of British lives and landscapes at a time of imminent change. Recording Britain was the brainchild of Sir Kenneth Clark, who saw it as an extension of the Official War Artist scheme. By choosing watercolour painting as the medium of record, Clark hoped that the scheme would also help to preserve this characteristic English art form – you can find out more about the scheme here.
20/04/2012 – 20/04/2012
10:30 – 17:30
V&A Museum, Hochhauser Auditorium, Sackler Centre
“Lawrence’s vision of England going to the dogs rings true today precisely because neither he nor anyone else was able to do anyting to prevent it. Lawrence realised that the colossal ugliness of industrialisation owas being succeeded by a different kind of blight: the spread of ‘red bricked semi-detached villas in new streets’. This had only just got under way but Lawrence saw it as evidence of the way ‘one England blots out another’.” Dyer on D.H Lawrence
Philip Larkin laments in ‘Going, Going‘ (1972) that the hole country will be ‘bricked-in':
“And that will be England gone,
The shadows, the meadows, the lanes,
The guildhalls, the carved choirs.
There’ll be books; it will linger on
In galleries; but all that remains
For us will be concrete and tyres.”
“Lawrence’s and Larkin’s worst fears have been miserably realised. Contemporary England may seem far removed from the hideous industrialised Victorian image of Dickens’ Coketown, but what might be termed a ‘Swindonisation’ has taken place whereby every town looks exactly like every other. A journey through the vast bulk of England is now a journey through the almost unrelieved ugliness of post-industrial homotgenisation.” Geoff Dyer.
The time has come for me to hang up the We English blog and move on to pastures new. I will periodically be updating the site with details of upcoming exhibitions, talks and events and you can follow my future projects over on my homepage here. The first of which will be The Election Project, where I will be documenting the British general election as the official Election Artist for the House of Commons. Why not get involved!
Thanks for joining me during the making of the work, I appreciate your collaboration and comments.
I’ll leave you with links to a few useful resources:
Download my commentary from We Englishhere or read an illustrated version on the blog here.
Download Professor Stephen Daniel’s essay from We English (The English Outdoors, May 2009) here.
My We English blog is coming to an end. Since its inception two years ago, and 333 posts later, the aim is that it’s become a kind of archive, a diary, tracing its own trail of ideas, debates, questions and insights. I hope you’ve enjoyed it!
I’ll leave you with links to a selection of the more informative blog entries, alongside some of my favourites, posted since April 2008 (in chronological order):
Jez Butterworth’s new play Jerusalem opens in the West End next week, after a run at the Royal Court where it scooped awards for best play and, for Mark Rylance, best actor. It’s also getting some fantastic reviews (for instance, here and here).
It is a three-hour comic play that appears to deal with small beer and wastrels, but stealthily becomes a state-of-the-nation play. As Johnny “Rooster” Byron, its hero, supposedly says at birth: “Mother, what is this dark place?” / “’Tis England, my boy, England.”
It’s showing at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue from 28 January 2010 – 4th April.
Here’s the blurb – “A comic, contemporary vision of rural life in our green and pleasant land, Jez Butterworth’s epic new play is wildly original. In part a lament about the erosion of country life, and in part a rebuff to the antiseptic modern world, it features a landmark central performance from Mark Rylance as hellraiser Johnny Byron, ‘a performance so charismatic, so mercurial, so complete and compelling that it doesn’t look like acting’ (Evening Standard), and a superb ensemble cast including Mackenzie Crook who ‘excels’ as Johnny’s sidekick Ginger. On St George’s Day, the morning of the local county fair, Johnny Byron is a wanted man. The council officials want to serve him an eviction notice, his son wants his dad to take him to the fair, and a motley crew of mates want his ample supply of drugs and alcohol.”
You can read an interview with Jez Butterwroth and Mark Rylance by Kate Muir writing in The Times (Saturday 23rd January) here.
Whilst talking a Sunday stroll along the seafront last November I came across some surfers patiently waiting for some waves in Shoreham Harbour. I shot a few minutes of video and have finally gotten around to downloading it onto my computer, so I thought I’d share it with you. It’s like a little water dance….just without a soundtrack.
As part of the Livebooks crowd-sourced blog post about the future of photobooks I recently gave a video interview to Jim Casper at Lens Culture about the beauty of the photobook, which you can view here.
Here are more details from Miki Johnson over at Livebooks-
What do you think photobooks will look like in 10 years? Will they be digital or physical? Open-source or proprietary? Will they be read on a Kindle or an iPhone? And what aesthetic innovations will have transformed them?
For a while now, it’s been our goal (at RESOLVE and liveBooks) to find and share new business models that will move photography and the creative industries forward in a positive way. But we’re also eager to conduct our own experiments. And what better place to start than the incredibly flexible blogging format?
Andy and I initially wondered how we could use our blogs in a new way to further illuminate the question, “What will photobooks be like in the year 2019?” We’re not psychic, but we do have a lot of faith in collective intelligence. And with all the talk these days about “crowd-sourcing,” we thought, why can’t we crowd-source a blog post?
Discussions in the blogosphere generally lead readers along trajectories of information, but all those useful ideas rarely get tied back up into a single useful post. We plan to centralize the discussion around this specific topic — photobooks — so that anyone searching for related posts can find them easily and understand the context around them.
So how does it work? Andy and I have contacted fellow bloggers and asked them to post about the most prescient innovations they’ve seen in the photobook and publishing industries. We’ll add links to those blogs within this post as they go live, so over the next few days you’ll be able to see the “research” for our final post developing in real time.