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Academics curate new photographic exhibition
14 May 2012
James Ravilious was photographer-in-residence at the Beaford Arts Centre in North Devon during the 1970s and 1980s. Through exhibitions, books and films, his work has reached a wide public, yet his reputation is based on a small proportion of his 70,000 negatives stored in the Beaford Archive.
His work is the most intensive record of any rural area in England, but his pictures are composed with the eye of an artist, warmed by his affection and admiration for the people whose lives he recorded.
The new exhibition – which will run from May 19 until July 29 at the RAMM museum in Exeter – features a selection of relatively unknown images next to some more well-known ones. Present day responses to Ravilious’ images are put in a new social and cultural context by Martyn Warren, a visiting fellow in Plymouth University’s School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and Liz Nicol, an Associate Professor in Photography.
Mr Warren said: “I first saw a Ravilious photograph over 30 years ago, shortly after moving to South Devon. Apart from being bowled over by the artistry of the photographs, I was fascinated by the depiction of north Devon as a land that time had passed by, particularly in respect of agricultural practices.
“As I grew more familiar with Devon, I often found myself wondering just how selective the photographer’s eye had been, and at the same time how my own vision was moulded by my background and personality.
“In this exhibition we are acknowledging that there is no universal ‘truth’ in a photograph, and celebrating the fact that each of us has different ‘windows’ into a picture. The tragedy is that the one person we cannot consult is the photographer himself: in one sense his photographs are his ‘truth’, but there is still much we would dearly love to ask him about the circumstances of each photograph and his intentions in taking it.”
Also reflected in the exhibition is a study funded by the Seale-Hayne Educational Trust. Through it Claire Kelly, also from the University’s School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, is conducting s where a range of carefully-chosen subjects are asked to reflect on and react to a number of Ravilious images.
Mark Wallace, Director of Beaford Arts said: “The Beaford Archive is a unique record of north Devon’s land and its people. This new exhibition is the first to consider in detail James Ravilious’s images in a contemporary context; it’s also the first time that many of these photographs have been shown in a gallery. After last year’s digitisation of more than 1700 images, more and more of the Archive is once again accessible to the public.”
This exhibition is part of ‘A Year of Photography’ at the RAMM museum in Exeter. James Ravilious: Reflecting the Rural at RAMM from 19th May to 29th July in Exeter, open Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm, except bank holidays.
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