To view the landscape as a pictorial composition of elements is simplistic. To perceive the landscape within a set of rules (art, science, politics, religion, community, business, industry, sport and leisure) is a way people can deal with the complexity of meanings that are presented in our environment. We are collectively responsible for shaping the landscape we occupy and in turn the landscape shapes us whether we are aware of it or not.
- John Davies
Narrative landscape photographer John Davies (b. 1949) captures the British landscape in a permanent state of flux. His black and white photographs, taken between 1979 and 2005 show the vast, complex and majestic scenery of post industrial and industrial Britain. He establishes centred and classical geometries within his unique vision that take on an almost magical and mystical appeal. His works are coolly detached and highly seductive in their display of rare moments of calm and quiet amidst the inevitable change of these modern landscapes.
The British landscape is particularly shaped by human endeavor and these photographs show the seams and layers of information left behind by time. Davies' use of black and white, free from the distraction of colour, gives the work an impression of permanence and lends the monumental to otherwise banal descriptions of the rural and urban landscape. Taken from an elevated position, these photographs show not an idealized countryside but a middle state, both rural and urban, constantly reinvented by trends in industry, agriculture and construction - each view in itself is a fabrication.
Davies' temporarily freezes this landscape for long enough for the viewer to study the details and the visual history of the landscape through these simultaneously pure and complex photographs. Born in Sedgefield, County Durham, in 1949, John Davies studied photography at Trent Polytechnic in Nottingham. In the 1970s his first photographs were landscape studies of rural Britain and in 1981 he began an ongoing documentation of urban Britain, concentrating on the industrial transformation and on post-industrial landscape.
He has published several photobooks, including The British Landscape in 2006. This series has been exhibited at Tate Liverpool, PhotoEspaña and at the National Museum of Photography Film and Television, Bradford. His photographs have been widely exhibited, including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Pompidou Centre, Paris, the Royal Academy of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. In 1984, Davies was commissioned by the International Bauausstellung in Berlin to take and display images of the Berlin Wall.
Generally, Davies work shows not an idealised countryside but a middle state, both rural and urban, constantly reinvented by trends in industry, agriculture, construction and in this case, politics and history.
"John Davies is one of today's most outstanding British photographers, he became famous through his research on the English industrial landscape, observed in vast and detailed views."
- Roberta Valtorta