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Rob Amey – Anima

Anima – Rob Amey


Rob Amey is a photographer and filmmaker based in the UK. His work explores the interwoven relationship of spirituality and the landscape in the South West of England. His most recent body of work, ‘Anima’ is based in rural Dorset as he explores the ancient landscape and places of historic value to the local towns and villages.

‘Anima’ is a series of work exploring our primal fears, spirituality and modern ancestor worship across the ancient woodlands of England. It follows real people, the turning of the wheel, ritual celebrations and worship that happens throughout the seasons. This project will be a chapter in a larger body of work titled ‘Land, Myth and Time’ exploring our connection to the land and the ancient landscapes across the UK.

I grew up in the South West of England in Bournemouth, a place famous for its sandy beaches leading into the Jurassic Coast, a site of outstanding beauty and prehistoric landscapes. Although the town itself isn’t the most culturally exciting, it is placed between the sea and the countryside with the New Forest being a few miles away.

My maternal family live in Scotland so summers and school holidays were split between playing on farms, swimming in the sea, and building dens in the forest. Nature surrounded me as we grew up and I was always drawn to photographing landscapes, trees, animals and attempting (and failing) to capture the unseen.

I moved to London for my photography degree course and then to Bristol for my Master’s degree in photography. Although I am now based back in Bournemouth, I feel like I am split between these four places.

Growing up in and around nature, especially in Scotland, hearing the myths and legends that encapsulate and transcend time in small villages and communities captivated me. I remember trying to track down magic trees and fairy circles even as a child.

This fascination with these stories led to an interest in the other, the occult, the paranormal, and in turn my own beliefs and fascination with old gods and religions. This is something I continue to return to through my photographic and film practice and is something I am still learning about today.

I loved to draw, but my shift to lens-based media happened as I was leaving school and finally found a medium I could use that almost seemed to legitimise the projects I was working on; it made these things I was trying to capture seem real.

All these years later I laugh at how naive I was in thinking photography could show any form of truth. Now this is something I like to play with and that underlines a lot of my practice.

Artists like Joan Fontcuberta, Patrick Keiller and Taryn Simon were huge inspirations to me as I developed my own practice. Walking the line between fact and fiction in the documentary genre was something that I constantly thought about. The ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ exhibition showing Fontcuberta’s various projects was shown at the Science Museum in London, and although I knew exactly the kind of artist Fontcuberta was, I still wanted to believe it.

That disconnect between belief, hoax, fact and fiction and my willingness to believe the work even though I knew it wasn’t real has stuck with me. When I was a university student, I made short-term projects about extraterrestrials living in the city of London and followed ghost hunters around old pubs to make documentary work.

These themes and explorations kept re-emerging, and as the years have gone on my practice has turned to exploring my own connection to the land that surrounds me, spiritually and historically. This was accelerated by the lockdowns last year and not being able to visit the rest of the UK as I had initially intended. It made me look inwards and locally as I started to not only explore my own beliefs and spirituality, but my own connection to nature around me and these ancient sites across Dorset and the South West that hold such power.

I wanted to try and capture that in a concise body of work, as part of a larger series of photographs and moving image pieces.

‘Anima’ is a chapter in a larger collection of work exploring ideas of land, myth and time across the UK. It takes a look at innate spirituality and the projection of my subconscious on these ancient landscapes – all at night. The book celebrates the turning of the druidic wheel, individual ritual and contemporary belief in modern paganism, and was created in collaboration with people of similar beliefs.

There was a particular night when making the work where a horse appeared in the darkness – just for a moment, as if it were a ghost – and then retreated back into the trees. There was a moment of connection to the land, of stillness as I was documenting this particular area, and this feeling was something that I keep going back to try and reach again.

Photography for me feels like a way in… a way in to exploring my own beliefs, exploring spirituality, and to ask questions and tell stories within local communities and surrounding areas. It’s a tool that can be used, manipulated, and stretched through research, reading and exploring philosophical questions.

It is a way of trying to communicate something that I often struggle to put into words. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it is something that I am continually drawn back to and look forward to pushing in the next chapter and expanding my work across the UK and into Europe over the next few years. / @rob_amey /

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