on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

The Floods by Joe Wright

Book review

Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

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

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Joe Wright

Joe Wright

Frequently found wandering the woodlands, hills and river banks of the British countryside.

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I’ve known Joe Wright for quite a while now and On Landscape has featured his early photography back in 2011 and it’s been a pleasure to watch his photography grow in confidence and maturity over the years since then and also to see his mastery of his 10x8 film camera develop (a camera particularly suited to Joe's towering stature).

On occasion we would meet up and he would show me a set of his most recent pictures and it was in early 2015 at a Paul Wakefield workshop in Scotland that he introduced me to some of the photographs contained within the book. Suffice it to say that both Paul and I were very impressed with the work.

The floods #1

What is the project about?

Joe's home town of Swindon has some beautiful forest (including nearby Savernake, one of Joe's regular haunts) but it is also surrounded by patches of anonymous woodland and between the years of 2012 and 2014 these areas of land 'suffered' from some of the most severe flooding for many years. Joe's experiences exploring these areas are the subject of the book, hence his description of the project as 'autobiographical', but the visual subject matter was these areas of flooded woodland and the sense of a forgotten reality. Not the idyllic and dreamlike Swallows and Amazons forest experience but that sense of woodland that many of us have grown up with, small copses of ill wrought trees on local wasteland.

The photographs themselves range from the quite exquisite. 

I've rarely seen a better image of this sort than the dramatic opener
All tortuous forgotten coppices bathed in murky water and mist - to the seemingly mundane - the book moves through a sotto voce middle section of images that defy a photographers sense of order.

The work in the book are quite subtly sequenced and I'm sure each reader will interpret them differently but perhaps with a common theme. For me there is a sense of the progression of the photographer here as well as the sense of the woods themselves. The initial images are quite formal and offer a recognisable, stark beauty. Joe has imposed his own vision onto the woodland and found those parts of the edgelands that conform to his own desire to create. During the middle sections of the book though you can see this search for order breaking down and the copses imprinting there own hidden sense of logic on the photographer. The last few images seem to show the forest itself maturing and changing, Oak and other broadleaf trees making their presence known on a journey to an old growth forest.

The floods #2

I've mentioned elsewhere in this issue that 'misty trees' have become a cliché of late and also that any cliché is more of the approach to subject than the subject itself. I think this book goes a long way to proving this - Joe uses the mist as part of the grammar of his project. The purely visual aspects, whilst important, are not the end goal of his use of this meme.

The floods #3

There is only a small amount of text from Joe in the book - many photographer will probably be saying "Isn't that why he's a photographer" - but it goes some way to explaining a little about the project which, in addition to an extract from Robbie Cowen's "Common Ground" is more than enough.

"Through repeated visits to these edgelands I came to enjoy the solitude and to experience what nature has to offer. With time I came to a realisation - nature has its own order."

The book itself is exquisitely produced. The attention to detail that Joe commits to his 10x8 photographs is reflected in the very high quality digital press printed pages which are all hand bound by Joe (using a stab bound and stitched format - see this link for a culinary explanation).

The Floods - Collector's Edition

The Floods - Collector's Edition

The Floods - Collector's EditionIncluded towards the end is a single image printed on a semi transparent page. This image echoes the ground glass of Joe's camera (as well as all images being printed at 8x10) and as much as I would have liked to have seen this printed upside down - I understand why Joe didn't do so.

Joe has self-published this book and was supported with it's design and production by Eddie Ephraums of Envisage Books. Eddie has also written a thoughtful essay for the book responding to Joe's work.

The Floods - Standard Edition

The project was partly funded on Indiegogo and all of the participants must be very happy with the fruits of their investment.

The 1st edition of the standard version of the book sold out quickly but I'm told a second print is being planned. In the meantime there are still a few of the limited edition collector's version of the the book left, these include a print from the series printed by Joe himself (no reprint of this book version, it's a one off). If you have any interest in owning beautiful examples of landscape photography books I wouldn't wait too long before ordering.

For more details of the book and the photography itself, see Joe's website www.josephwright.co.uk

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