John Davies' The British Landscape on show in New York

The British Landscape…is a long-term ongoing project about the enormous changes that have taken place in the UK – the world’s first industrial society and the first to de-industrialise,” says John Davies.

“Much of Britain’s infrastructure and the rapid expansion of industrial cities were created through the unprecedented growth of the Industrial Revolution. By the early 1980s, when I started this project, many of these large-scale industries and industrial communities were in terminal decline.”

Born in country Durham and brought up in farming and mining communities, Davies’ first subject was the rural landscape in Ireland, Scotland and England, which he shot between 1976-81 and published in 1985 in the book Mist Mountain Water Wind. But by 1981 he had turned his camera to the lasting impact of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, and by 1987 he had published his seminal book A Green and Pleasant Land – which took its title from Jerusalem, William Blake’s excoriating poem about the smoke-belching factories, and depicted the post-Industrial landscape in Northern England and South Wales.

Runcorn Bridges, Cheshire, 1986 © John Davies

This series was exhibited at The Photographers’ Gallery, and images from the project also went on show at venues such as the Museum of Modern Art New York and the Pompidou Centre in Paris; Davies went on to shoot many more, interconnected series of contemporary landscapes in the UK and beyond. The British Landscape, a selection of his work from 1979-2006 was published by Chris Boot in 2006, and was shown in major retrospectives at PhotoEspaña, the National Media Museum in Bradford, Galerie Vu’ in Paris, Walsall Art Gallery and Cube in Manchester. It also won Davies a place on the 2008 Deutsche Börse Photography Prize shortlist.

His most recent book, Shadow: Slag Heaps of Northern Europe was published by Edition Loco in 2016; in 2018, his work is on show in group exhibitions at The V&A Museum, London, the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, and The Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne. Now, he has his first solo show in the US, with an exhibition of The British Landscape on show until 15 February at L Parker Stephenson Photographs – a New York gallery that specialises in “selling works by 20th century visionary photographers” .

Stalybridge, 1983 © John Davies
Ladbrook Grove, 1985 © John Davies
Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is the editor of BJP, returning for a second stint on staff in 2023 - after 15 years on the team until 2019. As a freelancer, she has written for The Guardian, FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, Aperture, FOAM, Aesthetica and Apollo. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy