Fay Godwin: Under a turbulent sky

9 September - 28 October 2023

Under a turbulent sky is an exhibition of prints by Fay Godwin, one of the most respected and significant British photographers of the 20th century. Zelda Cheatle, gallery owner and friend of Fay Godwin, describes her as having been ‘an independent, intelligent and courageous photographer’ and Roger Taylor, in his essay for the retrospective publication Landmarks (2002), referred to her ‘mastery of the elusive grammar of greys.’

This exhibition represents a selection from what photo-historian Ian Jeffrey has described as a unique photographic survey of the landscape of Britain, carried out by Fay Godwin for exhibitions and books between 1972 – 1994 and particularly celebrates her pioneering attention to environmental issues.

Today, as landscape continues to be a subject photographers turn to when contemplating the ways we relate to where we live and the impact humans have on the land, Fay Godwin’s work continues to influence.

In 2016, Peter Cattrell, landscape photographer, teacher and fine printer, who printed for Fay Godwin’s books and exhibitions throughout the 1980s, made eighteen new Fay Godwin prints from the original negatives held in The British Library archive. These were first shown in 2017 at MoMA Machynlleth, in mid-Wales, curated by Diane Bailey and Geoff Young.

The prints have been personally selected by people who knew or worked with and were influenced by Fay Godwin; by curators, collectors and historians of photography as well as by close friends and members of her family who were invited by Diane Bailey and Geoff Young to make their selection.

The Kestle Barton exhibition of Fay Godwin’s photography, Under a turbulent sky (9 Sep – 28 Oct) includes the eighteen analogue prints from the initial exhibition, along with another nine new digital prints; again from the original negatives held in The British Library archive and accompanied by an additional nine contributors’ captions.

Exhibition conceived and curated by Diane Bailey and Geoff Young in association with The British Library.

Two Cornwall-based artists will also have work on show inspired and influenced by Fay Godwin: William Arnold’s photographic work in the adjacent upstairs space, entitled Sunspots; and Abigail Reynolds’ structures for sun and wind in the meadow and the garden.

A study day considering different approaches to landscape through a close reading of photographs by Fay Godwin and Bridgit by Charlotte Prodger will also be led by Abigail Reynolds at CAST, Helston on Saturday 28 October from 2-5pm.


Photograph above by Fay Godwin: Copper beech, Stourhead Lake, Wiltshire, 1983.© British Library Board

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Fay Godwin

Internationally acclaimed photographer Fay Godwin (1931-2005) began her professional career as a portrait photographer in the 1970s. During this period she collaborated on books with a number of writers; perhaps the best known is Remains of Elmet (1979), a book of poems and photographs produced with Ted Hughes. It was these poetic interpretations of the British landscape that established her reputation as one of Britain’s most accomplished photographers.

Her approach was distinct from that of other landscape photographers at the time; essentially descriptive, recording the specific and objective: the man-made landmark, the characteristic lines of a particular stretch of worked land.

While Fay walked the land, her interrogation of those people who made their living from the land and her challenges to those who despoiled it or owned and controlled unfair proportion of it, informed and amplified her practice as a photographer. Her environmental campaigning through both her landscape photography and her writing, singles her out and gives the work in this exhibition added meaning today.

Fay Godwin, Kent, 1988 photo: Ray Munday. © British Library Board

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