Joseph Horton
Terrain Vague

The British countryside has been regarded as a retreat for many, seen as an escape from the constructed urban environment and a place of contemplation. However, this reflection is not wholly relatable as for its inhabitants these spaces present conflict between ideology and reality. Along our border lands two coexisting identities can be found, creating a space which is not easily defined. Formerly attributed to the hardships of industrial closure the south Wales landscape sits alongside traditional pastoral visions associated with Britain. The divide is a ‘trunk’ road which joins England and Wales, whilst forming an unofficial border between rural and industrial South Wales. Its creation has been continually developed since the early 00’s and has seen further development with the help of European funding. Interested in exploring the complex social and cultural identity of this road I sought to inject a contemporary view of reflective and open imagery which, in my view, can be seen in documentary photography today; lyrical, ambiguous and ‘post-truth’.  

Working within a political landscape, as photographers, the creation of work for the cause of political comment versus that which speaks within political climates is a hard discussion to disentangle. This, for me, is where photography allows us to begin to unravel the complexities of cultural and political identities. The project attaches an ambiguity toward its subjects, one that gives space to think and from it, we find a balance between evidence and lyricism; it is in this dialogue that the work was made. The area in question is a web of rural, non-rural, urban, suburban sectors all of which have boundaries which blur into each other. Who we are and how we think these places look still remain and are easily found but if you look closer at their makeup and the surrounding spaces you get a sense of the messy truth which builds this picture. Attracted to the political and cultural notions associated with the road I looked to its surrounding space finding solitude in a transitory environment. So the work has become more of a reaction to that, seeking out scenes in the world which represent this feeling. It does not serve to illustrate the roads completion and history, but to explore how it as an object that talks about our relationship to travel, the environment and the micro climates that build our complex rural spaces.

It is important that representation from across our country is understood with the depth and understanding that transcends pictures of fields. Those areas which are overlooked carry the most weight and are often hidden in the everyday and familiar.

Joseph is a British photographer and artist working between London and Bristol who recently completed his MA in Photography at the University of the West of England (UWE). Joseph’s practice is concerned with social and environmental roles, focusing primarily on our sense of place and how we affect and are affected by the environments we inhabit; this results in images which focus on cultural and social identity as well as environmental relationships. Working in a documentary style his photographs are able to play with the narrative imbedded within the photograph. In-turn, he is able to bring ambiguity to the work presenting the unfamiliar in the familiar. 

His work has seen awards by the RPS Internal in 2019 and published by photography and art journals such as Der Greif, BOOOOOOM and Fotoroom, Loupe Magazine and Then There Was Us. Alongside this he has been commissioned by magazines such as the Sunday Times, applying his documentary style to fashion features for their weekend supplement ‘Style’, and producing portraits for the Telegraphs ‘Weekend Magazine’.


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