Modern Nature. Photographs from the Hyman Collection
Exhibition at the Hepworth Wakefield, 2018-2019.
Drawn from the collection of Claire and James Hyman, which comprises more than 3,000 photographs ranging from conceptual compositions to documentary-style works, Modern Nature included around 60 photographs taken since the end of the Second World War, through the beginnings of de-industrialisation to the present day. It explored the merging of urban and rural landscapes, the rapid expansion of cities and the increasingly intrusive management of the countryside. Rather than present a Romantic dichotomy between the rural and the urban, the exhibition presented a more contemporary sensibility that is frequently situated in the edgelands, the often scruffy margins, in which town blurs with countryside.
The Hyman Collection of British Photography includes many works which address the countryside including both landscapes and depictions of village life. These include depictions of the land as in Fay Godwin's pastoral idylls, John Blakemore and Thomas Cooper's metaphoric treatment of nature, John Davies's exploration of industry, Jem Southam's subtle depiction of man-made interventions, and Keith Arnatt's subversive views of areas of outstanding natural beauty. The collection also includes pictures of village life that focus on people and pastimes. Villages are shown to be sites of ritual, curiosity and strange events. These include Tony Ray Jones's eye for quirks and foibles, Homer Sykes's depiction of folk pastimes, bonfire night and other communal events in Anna Fox's Hamphsire village, Paul Reas's witty response to heritage tourism and Colin Jones's photograph of the Queen at Sandringham.
As well as exploring the rural life of the village and countryside, many British photographers have explored nature and addressed the natural environment. At times these depictions are mundane, and at other times nostalgic, romanticised, political and personal.
Beside the Seaside
As an Island Nation the coast and beach are highly charged culural and national symbols. British photographers have responded to the subjeect in a variety of ways. Bill Brandt provides the emblematic image of someone on a seaside holiday. Keith Vaughan provides pictures of innocence just moments before the outbreak of war. Bert Hardy chronicles life on a fishing trawler at sea. Fay Godwin celebfrates its rugged beauty. Mark Power's brililantly presents the locations listed in the celebrated BBC radio broadcasts of The Shipping Forecast. Meanwhile, for other photographers the beach becomes the setting for explorations of class and society as in the works of Tony Ray Jones, Marketa Luskacova, Colin Jones, Martin Parr, Anna Fox, The Caravan Gallery and Simon Roberts.