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Reviews, 2022

Robin Ravilious ‘A Chronicle of Rural Life 

The Photography of James Ravilious, Photo|Frome Photography Festival, Friday 24th June, 2022

One of the questions I often hear asked of documentary photography is, “does it really make any difference, or change anything”?  After hearing Robin Ravilious speak about her late husband James’ exquisite photographic work, ‘A Chronicle of Rural Life’ at Photo|Frome on Friday, there surely could be no clearer affirmation that it most definitely does.

The quietly gentle and passionate way in which Robin spoke about James’ life and remarkable work perfectly mirrored the very same feeling I got from looking at his beautiful images projected on the screen. With both words and images, I had the sense of two people speaking gently yet saying something very moving and important.

In wishing to make a difference or a positive change, documentary photography does not necessarily require seismic shifts or grand gestures, more often than not the gently beat of the butterfly wing, as beautiful demonstrated by Robin and James can be profoundly more effective and longer lasting.

My sincerest thanks to Robin for a most enjoyable talk and to James for the inspiration to keep going.

Giles Penfound 

Documentary Photographer

Chris Chapman ‘Wild Goose & Riddon

Photo|Frome Photography Festival, Friday 1st July, 2022

I first visited the exhibition at the round tower of Chris Chapman’s superb photographs of Dartmoor then came to hear him explain how he made the images.  I was quickly transported by Chris’s gentle story-telling to Dartmoor itself, both the landscape and intimate lives of people who had lived there for generations. 

Chris was adamant that he would never intrude with his camera into the lives of others without an invitation. Many of his subjects were fiercely self sufficient, living off the land and wary of strangers. So I began to understand that the foundation for his photography was not the sort of technical stuff you read in photographic magazines, but genuine friendship and understanding, carefully and slowly nurtured over many years. Yes, Chris has a wonderful eye for composition, the decisive moment and knows how to use a camera. But I learned each image was only possible because of his friendship and deep appreciation of hard daily lives, abundant in joy and humour. 

Each image captures a narrative, both in the subtle expressions on faces and the landscape and artifacts around them. Many of those he photographed have now died and their way of life gone forever, so this is also a very special historical record. For me hearing Chris’s spoken narrative alongside his images greatly enhanced my experience. This raises interesting issues for me about the value of a body of work, both images and words, as opposed to single stand alone images perfected for club competitions and awards. There is a place for both I guess.

I felt uplifted and privileged to have spent a joyful evening sharing Chris’s love of people and his recording of their unique lives. 

Thank you, Chris.

Phil Taylor, LRPS.