PGDB Shortlist: John Davies

John Davies is a photographer who I’ve long admired and the only one of the four I know personally. I’ve written and talked about his work (I’d also written about the work of Holdt before the nomination for the prize) including an extended review of the superb large-format book of the show ‘The British Landscape‘ (2006) which was nominated for the prize.

John is included in the Urban Landscape web site which I run with Mike Seaborne, but you can see more of his work on his own site.

His work is the best presented of the four short-listed photographers, filling the gallery at No 5 (with the coffee bar) with large, well printed black and white silver gelatin prints.

John’s landscapes are panoramic not in format, but in the sense that he likes to work from a high viewpoint with a relatively wide angle of view. Simply in terms of technique, his work stands out compared to the competition, but of course that isn’t it’s main strength. What strikes me on viewing these prints is their sheer lucidity both physically and conceptually.

The prints on show are a cross-section of his black and white work from 25 years in the book – and in the larger show. The book was my choice for the photo book of the year when it came out and the even larger prints here are just slightly more impressive. I do just wonder if they are a little too large on the wall, with the grain beginning to become intrusive in some areas. But they are certainly very well printed.

I’ve long considered John to be the leading contemporary exponent of urban landscape photography (though I also love the work of others including Gabriele Basilico.) On show here are some of his classic images, although I think I am currently even more interested in his colour work, and would feel that that is now making a greater “contribution to photography” than his older black and white work. Perhaps the weakest element of John’s work are his captions which sometimes seem to me to be too prosaic and concerned with the place rather than the precise location of the picture or its content.

One curious aspect of his work in the catalogue is the warm tone of the illustrations, brown rather than the much more neutral tone of his images. I don’t think this – or the small scale does them justice.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.