James Ravilious, An English Eye

The National Theatre photo exhibitions are normally worth catching and the latest: James Ravilious: An English Eye is no exception – in fact it’s one of the best I’ve seen there.

Ravilious died in 1999 and the majority of the photographs were taken well before then. They, as the title suggests, offer a view (in beautiful and white) of English life, specifically the rural and the traditional. If the subject matter is unchallenging, the images are all beautifully composed and presented – the result of understanding the people and communities portrayed. It’s all a cut above the ‘standard’ village life shots.

A year or so again at the Host Gallery, I saw Chris Steele-Perkins’ Northern Exposures and was reminded of it by this exhibition. The key difference is that whereas there is at times a Martin Parr-esque comedy to the images of Northern Exposures, An English Eye keeps a straight face throughout.

Thoroughly recommended, it’s at the National Theatre until 16 May. Catch it and then have one of their nice glasses of wine to reflect on this capturing of a potentially vanishing England – and also the sad fact that it’s the tenth anniversary of the photographer’s death that’s prompted the exhibition.

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