A Walk on The Wild Side


Sewell’s The Heath Compiles Reflective Images of North London’s Green Escape

If you’re a bit of an armchair rambler, British photographer Andy Sewell’s book The Heath may be up your street. Compiled over five years, Sewell’s series of landscapes was taken along the paths of north London’s urban escape, Hampstead Heath. His hawk-eye for detail takes in the elevated and mundane – a pair of crows on a park bench, a bag of bird seed hanging from a branch, two young lovers lying in the grass. It’s no surprise that the Brit takes inspiration from Walker Evans, the American photographer who defined his unflinching portraits as, ‘the capture and projection of the delights of seeing.’ In the same way, Sewell’s compositions are a master-class in observation, natural and uncontrived. He describes his particular way of looking as, ‘If the image is concerned with what it is to look at the world rather than what the world looks like photographed.’ The Heath is a quietly compelling record of the wild, green expanse and its visitors. Certain images resonate: a girl’s shawl and the imprint of her body left behind on the grass, two blurred dogs rolling around in the mud.

After spending five years on The Heath series, Sewell continues his pursuit of nature in his upcoming book Something Like a Nest, a photo-book on rural life, ‘I hope to create a countryside in which these threads exist together, where the noise of contemporary life bleeds into pastoral ideas and conventions.’

The Plus: What was behind the decision to shoot The Heath? And why did you turn the
photographs into a book?
Andy Sewell:
The way I work starts from a place of attraction and confusion – out of this I am trying to create some kind of coherence. I’ll be able to explain to myself, to some degree, the reasons for beginning a piece of work but if this understanding is too well formed then I am unlikely to feel much need to make the work. After recognising that I wanted to take pictures on Hampstead Heath I quite simply would walk until I saw something that made me want to stop.

TP: What type of photography do you like?
Photographs that I am drawn to, but find hard to fully explain why. If this delight is found in the everyday, in something that feels connected to my life rather than in the exotic or the fantastical all the better.

TP: How do you find new inspiration?
Its a mix of many things – fiction, essay, film, poetry, conversation, other photographers, walking around a gallery, something that happens in front of me – everything I suppose. Out of this comes the desire to take a certain type of picture or photograph within a particular place. Sometimes these pictures will be interesting and will be the start of a new piece of work.

TP: What’s next?
My new book is called Something Like a Nest. It is all photographed in the countryside. Despite more of us living in cities than ever before, or perhaps because of this, the rural idyll – countryside as a place of escape and continuity – is still a potent image. But of course when you stand in a field, farmyard or village the stuff in front of you doesn’t conform easily to this cliché; it’s often more interesting than that.