Jem Southam Biography

Jem Southam has been a key figure in British photography for over twenty-five years. Working exclusively in the landscape genre, his prevailing thematic concerns are the changes, large and small, occurring within the British countryside. His photographs are the result of patient observation and contemplation over long periods of time. Often producing series, Southam layers and juxtaposes images that not only reveal cycles of nature, but the interactions of humans with their environment. He has said that he proposes “histories,” both social and natural.

Among the series that have been published in book form are The Red River (1982-1987), which depicts the hard-scrapple legacy of mining in Cornwall and reflects on the mythology constructed around the perception of landscape; The Raft of Carrots (1992), small scale works which have been described as “a catalogue of chance encounters;” and The Shape of Time: Rockfalls Rivermouths Ponds (2000) in which he used a large-format camera to marry monumental forms with subtle detail. In 2005, a retrospective volume Landscape Stories was published by Blind Spot Publications/Princeton Architectural Press, finally making his work widely available to American audiences. Just published in early 2007 is The Painter's Pool from Nazraeli Press.

A recently released body of work, Upton Pyne, that describes the fate of a pond over a seven year period, will be circulated in a traveling show in late 2007 and 2008. Among its venues will be the Yale Center for British Art and the Davis Museum of Wellesley College. A separate exhibition of the work was shown at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, in July 2006

Jem Southam was born in Bristol in 1950. He currently resides with his family in Exeter and is the Head of Design: Photography Department at the Exeter School of Art and Design.