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Fay Godwin

Born: 1931. Died: 2005. Nationality: British.

Fay Godwin achieved recognition as one of the outstanding photographers of her generation.  Although she didn’t take up photography until her mid-thirties, she was to have a long and prolific career, becoming a supreme exponent of studies of the British landscape.

She was born in Berlin, daughter of a British diplomat; she eventually settled in London in 1958 and worked in publishing.  Her first photographic work was producing portraits for book jackets and publicity material but she soon found her lifelong passion for the landscape and her work came to be published in more than twenty books and shown in numerous exhibitions.  She developed a remarkable skill for capturing in black and white the essential character of the land, the sea and the sky in locations throughout the British Isles.  Her images were never sentimental and she was acutely aware of the way the natural environment has been changed through the occupation and intervention of past and present generations.

Her books often involved collaboration with eminent literary figures, including Islands (1978) with John Fowles, Remains of Elmet (1979) with Ted Hughes, and The Saxon Shore Way (1983) with Alan Sillitoe.  The most influential of her books was Land (1985), a compilation of work carried out over a ten year period which sealed her reputation as an artist with both critics and the public.  In Our Forbidden Land (1990) she drew attention to the damage caused to the landscape by road builders, developers, the forestry industry and the Ministry of Defence.   It won the first Green Book of the Year Award.

Subjects of Fay Godwin’s portrait photography include Philip Larkin, Arnold Wesker, Ted Hughes, Doris Lessing, Kingsley Amis, Tom Stoppard and Saul Bellow and 43 examples of her work are held in the National Portrait Gallery.  Other galleries which have exhibited her work include the Victoria and Albert Museum (1976), Hayward Gallery (1980), Serpentine Gallery (1985), Barbican (2001) and Scottish National Portrait Gallery (2003).

White Cloud near Bilsington
Clump In Hollow, Summerhouse Hill
Zig-Zag Groynes
Tracks and Groynes, Winchelsea Beach
Low Light: Shingle and Groynes