Paul Hart's new book Reclaimed concludes his three-part series on The Fens in the UK. The first two books Farmed (2016) and Drained (2018) have received several international awards and considerable critical acclaim. In 2018 work from the series was awarded the inaugural Wolf Suschitzky Photography Prize (Austria/UK) and in 2019 it was shortlisted for the Hariban Award (Japan).
The Fens, originally a region of low-lying marshland in the east of England, has been artificially drained over centuries to provide some of Britain's most fertile agricultural land. It is a landscape of agribusiness with monoculture at it's core, defined by human migration and long-term reclamation from the sea.
Paul Hart has photographed the area for over ten years. His narrative examines the complex interrelation between humanity and nature and raises important questions about human-altered topography and our occupation and stewardship of this land. By focusing on the often-overlooked elements in familiar vistas Hart's aesthetics carry a documentary sensibility that allows the landscapes to define themselves. He works solely with the analogue process employing traditional darkroom practice to convey something of the soulful in a landscape that is rarely considered of aesthetic merit.
As the respected French curator and writer Isabelle Bonnet states in her insightful introductory essay; "Hart's landscapes create a dialogue between art and document, lyricism and storytelling, the sublime and the ordinary. Almost everywhere, rectilinear and regular shapes unfold, impeccably drawn furrows responding to rows of trees, industrial constructions and metal structures. No movement animates this nature morte, no bird awakens these low and heavy skies and endless horizons. Hart's images take on a universal value: the battered and exhausted Fens resonate like a subtle metaphor for what humanity engenders and inflicts on itself."
Paul Hart has exhibited internationally at galleries including The Austrian Cultural Forum London, The Royal Academy of Art, The Photographers' Gallery, The Royal Photographic Society and The Cultural Foundation ARCADE (Dijon, France), and at major art fairs including Paris Photo, Photo London and AIPAD New York. His work resides in many important collections including the V&A Museum, the Ivor Braka Collection, and the MoMA Library (USA).
Isabelle Bonnet is a photography art historian, writer and curator based in Paris. She is currently studying for a PhD at the Sorbonne. Before resuming her studies she worked for 25 years in fashion photography in Paris and New York. In 2019, she curated the exhibition Home Sweet Home for the Rencontres d'Arles and the Institut pour la Photographie of Lille, and is the author of the eponymous book published by Textuel.