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In The Open | David Chandler, Liz Nicol, Math Southam, Katelyn Toth-Fejel & Jem Southam

David Chandler is Professor in Photography at Plymouth University. His interest in photography began within the context of art history and has been developed since 1982 through various curatorial roles in museums and galleries, including the National Portrait Gallery, London (1982-88) and The Photographers' Gallery, London (1988-95). He now works principally as a writer, editor and curator, in the fields of contemporary photography, photographic history and the visual arts. This work often stems from a close association with photographers, artists and organisations, either professionally as a commissioner of projects, or more generally as a participant in the processes of making and thinking about work. Collaboration is, therefore, an important principle and activity in all his work, as is an enthusiasm for cross-disciplinary projects that bring together distinct disciplines and experiences. These ideas were a driving force behind his role as Director of Photoworks, Brighton (1997-2010), where, among other things, he initiated a major series of site-based commissions and over thirteen years worked closely with a range of very different photographers and artists. The ideas have also informed his activities as a publisher of photographic books, especially at Photoworks, and he has developed a particular interest in the practice and process of book making, something underpinned by the firm belief in the book as a primary site for the photographic image.

Liz Nicol is Associate professor in Photography at Plymouth University. Liz is interested in the process of photography, particularly the photochemical process and some of the early processes like the cyanototype - the blue print. She responds to the physicality of the process, continuing to use the darkroom as means of printmaking, exploring the relationship between object and image.

Presentation is important and reveals the process of making the works which are often reworked over a period of time. For example, in the ongoing series of images of figureheads she has layered the figures with some of the first landscapes she took as a student over 30 years ago.

Her motivation for working with photography is to make sense of the things around her and to serve as a visual memory, she  wonders how to capture fleeting moments and thoughts through the processes of photography . Family narratives underly many of the works, whether it is collecting rubber bands while walking her child to school every day for the period of a year, or picking up feathers on a misty walk along the cliffs. Many photographs she uses are taken on holiday - at the zoo, the aquarium or museum, they may be off fish on the market stall in Barcelona or from an adventure in her recently refurbished sailing canoe.

The subject matter is often linked to the sea and the coast, to connections made by water, and may refer to the epic journey of a figurehead or to the floating sinking actions of the jelly fish. She is currently engaged in a long-term study of the Venice lagoons.

Math Southam has lived in West Cornwall for the past 38 years. He taught Rural Studies and Biology at Camborne School until 2007. Since then he has been able to concentrate his life-long interest in Ornithology through walking, notation and drawing. Each morning he makes a long slow trawl along the clifftops and through the fields near his home, and posts the results of his observations on the BTO website. He has previously worked in collaboration with his brother along the Cumbrian coast, exhibiting his bird notes in the exhibition ‘Clouds Descending’ at the Lowry, Salford.

Katelyn Toth-Fejel is an artist, designer and natural dye specialist. Over the last decade her work and her teaching has focused on increasing the take up of plant dyes as a local and ecological option for vibrant colour with particular emphasis on those dyes which are seasonally available and allow for uniquely regional hues, foraged in urban settings or cast off from agriculture. This work has been featured in numerous UK publications including the recent book: Lost in London; Adventures in the City’s Wild Outdoors.

Katelyn is a partner of the design collective ‘Here Today Here Tomorrow’ with a studio and shop in East London. The shop showcases different elements of sustainable fashion and accessories such as high quality handmade craftsmanship, durability, localism, recycling, organic materials, individuality, fair trade and transparent production as well as featuring Katelyn’s natural dye work.

Katelyn is a Research Assistant at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, University of the Arts London working on a variety of projects and previously on the Local Wisdom project, an international research project exploring satisfying and resourceful practices associated with using clothes and led by Professor Kate Fletcher.

Jem Southam is a Professor of Photography at Plymouth University. His works are made through establishing long-term  relationships with selected sites, many close to his home in Exeter. Since the 1990’s his published works have all been made using traditional large format analogue cameras, and the slow patient observation and notation of change, has been paramount. His narrative works are always presented together with texts, either his own short stories or pieces written by collaborators. The sea, rivers, ponds and streams – are all key preoccupations, though recently he has been making studies of the passage of each winter. His publications include – ‘The Red River’ 1998; ‘The Raft of Carrots’ 1992; ‘Rockfalls,Rivermouths and Ponds’ 2000; ‘the river/WINTER’ 2011.

For the past 25 years he has also been making more occasional studies of flowering plants and birds, and this exhibition is the first to feature some of the results.


Jem Southam in collaboration with Math Southam, David Chandler, Liz Nicol and Katelyn Toth Fejel.

For nearly 20 years Jem Southam has been photographing individual ‘Thrift’ plants near Grange Chine on the Isle of White, and along a stretch of cliff in West Cornwall.

This work was made in a walking collaboration in Cornwall with his brother and a group of colleagues during the late spring and summer of 2014. In May the plants begin to flower, by July the many seed heads are developing, and by late august they have largely finished blooming.

Math Southam makes this walk daily recording each bird species seen or heard during a two to three hour walk.

Liz Nicol’s ‘Objectographs’ were made in her studio after returning from a walk.

David Chandlers text is an account of one such walk together on the cliffs.

Katelyn Toth Fejel has taken a single plant and extracted dyes using a variety of traditional processes.