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#16

Amber Wykes was born in Middlesborough, 1974.
She studied at University of East Anglia, 1997 - 2000
She lives in Norwich and works in Great Yarmouth

We are presented with six large format photographs; two on each of the three exhibiting walls. Running clockwise around the room, the first image shows a small field with tussocks of unkempt grass and towering dry stalks of Giant Hogweed or Cow Parsley crowned with their dead heads. The foreground is in sharp focus and in the distance is a barrier of trees and bushes. The next image is of a collapsed shipwreck of a shed. A tree sprouts from the edge of it. A foreground of snowy ground has tufts of grass poking through. On the far wall we are shown a vintage caravan that appears to be in use as a potting shed. A makeshift bench constructed from a sheet of wood and Sunblest bread carriers sits against it. A wheelbarrow appears to have skidded to a halt underneath the bench. The next photograph shows blooming roses within a proliferation of untended vegetation. On the wall to our right an image shows a large greenhouse with three pitches that spreads to either side of the frame. A well-trodden path leads up to a door. Many of the traditional glass windows have been replaced with black bin bags and compost sacks. Several plastic water butts stand outside. The final image shows an overgrown allotment scene. A scattering of sheds and greenhouses sit within their untended grounds.


A discussion between Kaavous Clayton and Amber Wykes at Outpost on 28th February 2006.

Kaavous Clayton: What attracts you to the sites you photograph?

Amber Wykes: The tension between the evidence of human life, and the landscape returning to its natural state.

KC: And within those sites how do you select the views you capture?

AW: The way the evidence of human life manifests itself. This may be a trodden path, tended roses in a deserted garden, the more structural indication of shelters, buildings or boundaries or just a haunting feeling.

KC: Are you celebrating the fact that the landscape is overcoming the human invasion and will reclaim its territory?

AW: Yes I'm definitely on nature's side, and do feel a sense of victory when I see land that's been allowed to redefine itself after human interference.

KC: Do you think land that has recovered from human interference is different to land that has always remained under its own control?

AW: The sites I've been photographing are places that are about to be redeveloped, usually with new homes. This becomes quite a solid, final conclusion for the land. Because of this, I feel there is a tremendous sense of loss within these sites. Loss of the land's history, a loss of life these places have experienced, and a loss of the memories people have of them.

KC: So you are documenting a moment between times. The land has been used by humans, struggles to fight back only to have humans take control again.

AW: Yes.

KC: This seems to be part of a larger struggle. Your photographs show a small glimpse of a bigger picture. What do you think the outcome will be?

AW: The outcome for what? The sites?

KC: More for the struggle of humans versus nature.

AW: Unfortunately I think humans are just going to keep blundering on belligerently oblivious to how fragile our planet is. And maybe this adds to the sense of loss on these fragile pieces of land.

KC: I think your images contain a sense of foreboding that seems increasingly relevant with each passing day. Do you think there is any hope?

AW: I try not to think about it, it's too hard. I just cling to the beauty of life, and try to remain hopeful.

KC: But your photographs seem to be latching onto the balance between life and death and portraying the beauty of both.

AW: I don't know if there is any beauty in death is there? Life is much more beautiful.

KC: We'll have to wait and see.

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