Robin Friend’s anew arise book, Bastard Countryside, is the adventitious aftereffect of 15 years of photographing the British landscape. Aback Friend – a Wallpaper* contributor – started demography the large-format pictures that arise on the book’s pages, he was still an undergraduate at Plymouth University.
There are additionally photographs taken later, aback he confused to London, area he completed an MA at the Royal College of Art. It was at the RCA that he met Robert MacFarlane, the British biographer who has active absorption in autograph about the mural in his books and essays. Macfarlane alien Friend to Victor Hugo’s ambition of a ‘bastard countryside’, a abode amid burghal and rural, and has contributed an article to the book.
Bastard Countryside looks outwards at a alteration landscape, but it is additionally a claimed documentation, of a being crumbling as an artisan and as a man, and in his eyes of the apple through his camera. For Friend, who was built-in in London but grew up in Australia afore affective back, this bifold angle additionally reveals itself in an insider-outsider view, the banner of ability on nature. Friend treats Britain’s creeks and canals, flora and fauna, automated sites and atom yards, with the according concern and ambit of a adopted eye.
There are dramatic, awe-inspiring scenes – a shipwreck, a abandoned bang – that blow on capacity of afterlife and animal destruction. Other images abruptness with abrupt beauty: bags of atom decay aback attending like arresting sculptures. There are juxtapositions that abet laughter, such as his snapshots of scarecrows. Friend’s compassionate of colour and ablaze brings a surreal affectionate of magic: his pictures of accessory dishes acerbic in fields of lavender, or pinkish bales of hay accumulated high, attending alien to a native.
Like a continued band of mural painters who accept sat out in the teeth of the weather, Friend, with his bulky large-format camera, has abseiled and climbed (and alike slept on shipwreck) to booty his photographs. Some are anxiously accommodating shoots while others are ad-lib sightings. This concrete assurance with the mural is as abundant allotment of the work: we attending at it from altered angles, above, below, up-close and from afar.
Juxtaposing the accustomed and the manmade, abuse and its victims, accident and renewal, Bastard Countryside constitutes ‘an annal of a country’s margins during an era of acerbity and marginalisation’, as MacFarlane writes in his essay. This is not a delineation of pastoral accomplishment but an ode to a tangled, snuggle-toothed area whose agreeableness isn’t accessible but has been overlooked. §
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