For a few more days at The Museum of East Anglian Life at Abbot’s Hall, Stowmarket, you can see an interesting exhibition of photography by Tom Owens ARPS.
Owens explores the buffer zones between urban and rural environments, challenging the notion of officially designated areas of beauty by conveying our mundane environments in a favourable light. This means choosing interesting viewpoints, making aesthetically pleasing compositions and using fine art approaches to photography.
Using large format film cameras Owens spends time setting up each shot and treating it with the respect given to landscape photography. He uses a tall tripod to achieve an elevated, dominant view of the subject which seems to impart a gravitas to the humble settings – we look at wasteland in a new way. We re-think the terms of waste and land and start to think of edges and perimeters of reference, while firm categories of worth and worthlessness dissolve into the nether regions of overlapping geographies of familiarity.
What specifically did you look for in the settings or sites you photographed for ‘Edgelands’?
“I needed to find edges – edges between areas of current or historical use. I had already called my work Edgelands and read Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts’ Edgelands book as a catalyst amongst other works. There are no pictures other than in prose so used it to spur my imagination and dig deep into my psyche to make work that was in my mind but not yet visible to anyone.” (Metro Imaging interview with Owens, 2015)
You use analogue and digital cameras for your work; do you have your favourite method of working?
“My favoured method of working has to be with my large format cameras, closely followed by my medium format film SLR. I began in 1968 on a Lubitel 2 and I used to marvel at my grandfather’s half plate mahogany and brass camera in our loft. It was not until I went to UCS where they major on film based work that the desire to shoot large format got an airing. My first ever E-bay purchase was my Toyo 45C” (also from Metro Imaging interview 2105)
Using some heart-warming old analogue kit, Owens photos convey the elusive beauty of marginal lands and littered terrains, often showing us new ways of appreciating the land we live on. But let’s not get too romantic – there are also issues of environmental damage and human dislocation from the land, plus the problem of aestheticising ugliness when it may not be possible. At such times we have to trust the sensibility of the photographer and let them guide us into fuller ways of seeing the land around us. Good work Tom Owens.