Westgate, 2001 © John Davies
“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.”
Born in country Durham and brought up in farming and mining communities, Davies’ first subject was the rural landscape in Ireland, Scotland and England, which he shot between 1976-81 and published in 1985 in the book Mist Mountain Water Wind. But by 1981 he had turned his camera to the lasting impact of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, and by 1987 he had published his seminal book A Green and Pleasant Land – which took its title from Jerusalem, William Blake’s excoriating poem about the smoke-belching factories, and depicted the post-Industrial landscape in Northern England and South Wales.
This series was exhibited at The Photographers’ Gallery, and images from the project also went on show at venues such as the Museum of Modern Art New York and the Pompidou Centre in Paris; Davies went on to shoot many more, interconnected series of contemporary landscapes in the UK and beyond. The British Landscape, a selection of his work from 1979-2006 was published by Chris Boot in 2006, and was shown in major retrospectives at PhotoEspaña, the National Media Museum in Bradford, Galerie Vu’ in Paris, Walsall Art Gallery and Cube in Manchester. It also won Davies a place on the 2008 Deutsche Börse Photography Prize shortlist.
His most recent book, Shadow: Slag Heaps of Northern Europe was published by Edition Loco in 2016; in 2018, his work is on show in group exhibitions at The V&A Museum, London, the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, and The Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne. Now, he has his first solo show in the US, with an exhibition of The British Landscape on show until 15 February at L Parker Stephenson Photographs – a New York gallery that specialises in “selling works by 20th century visionary photographers” .