on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Travels in a Strange Land : Dark Spaces

A Book By Matt Botwood

Matt Botwood

Matt Botwood is a landscape photographer based in the Brecon Beacons who takes a predominantly project-based approach to photography. Taking time to explore subjects in depth over an extended period, using a variety of creative aproaches and tending to gravitate towards monochrome.


Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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Over the last few years, Matt Botwood has been exploring the creative side of his landscape photography in various ways. The most significant of which is his series "Travels in a Strange Land". For the first visitor, the images come across as alien and strange in the same way that some infra-red images can be beguiling. However at some point you realise that these are 'simply' an inversion of black and white images of the undergrowth or scrubland. 'Simple' isn't quite the right word though as these images go beyond a simple affectation and Matt has explored the possibilities in a substantial series of 150 images and used the idea as a tool for exploration of his local area.


And what ideas is he drawing out? Well the first is to revel in what the dark hides. The photographic negative presents the very darkest parts of the image as glorious light and hides the sunlit areas in sudden inky black. The world is inverted and we look back out at it through the looking glass. These effects work particularly well when Matt has found areas of shaded hollows and re-presents them to us as as windows into a world of light.

Travels in a Strange Land : Dark Spaces Book

The front cover of the book is a case in point. It looks like we've lifted a veil of moss and found nirvana. Other images show root systems as conduits of energy, all aglow with potential.

My aim was always to immerse the viewer in this new world that I had discovered, to force them to try and get their bearings and work out what’s going on.

As much as the book is a beautiful creation and the idea a fascinating one, although it can also be a bit of a challenge. One hundred images without any form of punctuation or rhythmic pacing can be tiring. I felt as if I should be devouring the whole project in a single breath. That isn't to say the images don't work well and as I return to the book I keep finding images that reveal something new. So perhaps 'reading' this books takes effort from the viewer and the project is better sampled over time (as Matt suggests later in the questions below).

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