The Nymph and the Shepherd forms part of my current residency at Bank Street Arts in Sheffield. Over the course of a year I am sending a newly made digital image each week to be installed at the gallery. Beginning in the Spring, the series will chronicle my interpretation of my rural Somerset surroundings 160 miles south of Sheffield and record its transitions. Akin to my ongoing project Elementary Husbandry that will be exhibited at BSA in July, this experience will be relayed through a realist aesthetic, which is inspired by critiques of both visual and literary representations of the English pastoral countryside.
The regular exchange of material between the gallery and myself throughout the residency is a parallel to the juxtaposition of Christopher Marlowe’s poem The Passionate Shepherd to His Love, in which a naive shepherd attempts to persuade his sweetheart to abandon an urban life for his simpler rural existence, with the sardonic voice of Sir Walter Raleigh’s poem The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd. The long distance dialogue throughout the residency is a contemporary interpretation of the amorous romance that is embedded within countless pastoral tales and narratives – in this instance, the love letter and poem supplemented for the digital image.
As well as considering the ways that (mis)impressions of the English countryside are formed through visual imagery – which my practice has explored for some time – the strategy of this residency might also encompass wider discussions around the transit of the photographic image; its role in our prosaic and personal, and often intimate, communications.
Jesse Alexander is a photographer and writer, and author of Perspectives on Place: Theory & Practice in Landscape Photography (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), and writes the Perspectives on Place blog. He is currently Course Coordinator MA Photography at Falmouth University and Programme Leader BA(Hons) Photography at the Open College of the Arts, who are kindly supporting the project.