‘Vorest’ is a meditation on the changing landscape of the Forest of Dean, in South West England. It is an ancient place, a forest of plantation and ancient woodland, of farm land, heathland, quarries and mines. Locally it is known as the Forest, and its inhabitants, Foresters.
There is a collective desire among the inhabitants to maintain the ecological balance of their land. The Forest of Dean has a rich culture of land use, and ancient land-based rites (which continue to be upheld) give those within the Forest boundary the rite to mine coal, graze sheep on common land and vote for the judicial officers of the Forest.
I am exploring the idea that the cultural and natural values of landscapes are inescapably linked. There is a concept found in literary and pictorial Romanticism that to soften our confusion about what it means to dwell on the earth, we should endeavour to return to it in our everyday lives.
The way people interact with the land in this forest has changed considerably; the landscape is evolving from a place of work to a place of leisure. In the transition, the ecology of this forest and the conservation of its cultural history have become essential to the way it is managed.
‘Vorest’ considers the land in detail, its topography, traces of past human activity and our role within it. Using archival photographs from the local museum, I draw upon the folk and rural traditions that form the foundation of the Forester’s culture and collective memory. In my own exploration of this landscape I experienced it as tactile and material – a place in which the human role is reduced, but still present.
Through ‘Vorest’, I endevour to better understand this landscape and our place within it.
I am a photographic artist based in the UK. The central themes of my practice are the anthropology of landscape, memory, and the materiality and topography of land.