“The British Landscape…is a long-term ongoing project about the enormous changes that have taken place in the UK – the world’s first industrial society and the first to de-industrialise,” says John Davies. “Much of Britain’s infrastructure and the rapid expansion of industrial cities were created through the unprecedented growth of the Industrial Revolution. By the early 1980s, when I started this project, many of these large-scale industries and industrial communities were in terminal decline.”
Marking the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest signed by King Henry III, and corresponding with the launch of the 2017 Charter for Trees, Woods and People, the V&A’s new display Into The Woods: Trees in Photography, celebrates the significance of trees in the work of photographers across the world and throughout history.
The exhibition is comprised of works from the V&A’s permanent collection as well as photographs recently transferred from the Royal Photographic Society ahead of their rehousing in the museum’s new Photography Centre in 2018. Curated by Martin Barnes, senior curator of photographs at the V&A, Into The Woods began as an impulse – “I just like trees!” – but gradually revealed itself to be the germ of a great idea.
“It’s got nothing to do with Brexit or Europe!” says curator Greg Hobson. “I think we can’t begin to understand that yet. It’s just being addressed by photographers now. We’re discussing the exhibition A Green and Pleasant Land – British Landscape and the Imagination: 1970s to Now, which he’s curated with Brian Cass, head of exhibitions at Towner Art Gallery, and which recently opened at the Towner. Including over 100 works by 50 artists (52 if you count the people in duos separately), it’s a major survey of the land we live on and how photographers have shown it, including image-makers such as John Blakemore, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Fay Godwin, John Davies, Paul Graham, and Theo Simpson.