Alan McFetridge is a New Zealand born, UK based photographer. He draws on his ancestry of farming, formative years in rural New Zealand and adult life in London to bring attention to the impact of dispossession and the geography that surrounds it.
Beginning with local events in 2012, the potential for epic displacement came into the frame after studying the impacts of wildfire in 2016 from a Royal Photographic Society Bursary. Since then he has become dedicated to explaining the dual capacity of fire, colonialism's role in the Climate Crisis and acknowledging our role in the burning. His project is layered in meaning and supported by substantial research with the considerable challenge of logistics of making work around the world.
In April he is on the Climates of Colonialism Panel at the Association for Art History Annual Conference.
His fire project has received 5 nominations for the 2021 Prix Pictet - ninth edition of the Prix Pictet, the world’s leading prize for photography and sustainability.
Discover more about Alan’s work this week!
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These pictures are from the book On The Line, 2019. They were made in 2016, 6 months after climate heating created a megafire and Canada's largest mass evacuation from a natural disaster in history, the first of its kind.
On The Line refers to an ecological boundary that the industrial world pushes into wildland to extract resources and where this event takes place.
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On The Line also refers to the road that can be seen behind the trees. This where the evacuation of 80,000 people took place. The trees tell the story of the observer, indifferent to people and panic of that day but nonetheless affected.
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Before making these I’d been reading Emile Zola’s 19th century account of a new Parisian park, he wrote “It is as if nature had done something wrong and had been imprisoned”. At the same time a mega wildfire appeared on the news media, vividly showing the inferno. As the aerial footage showed the wider view, the inverse seemed to be the case... an urban service centre isolated from the rest of human civilization and imprisoned. I had many questions, with a grant by the Royal Photographic Society and set off to investigate.
What I found was deeply saddening, immensely difficult for the community and to consider my role in the burning.
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Standing there, I decided to embody the issue in a way that description never could. I could immerse the viewer in the atmosphere, begin to reduce the psychological distance and challenge the norms of documentary photography.
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I went on to make this beautiful book about a subject that I love and have great respect for. The project got underway with a grant from the Royal Photographic Society, I was met on every corner by the most wonderful people who had suffered so much. Designer Duncan Whyte, paper specialists G.F. Smith and London printers Park Communications all made significant contributions to the production of the book to make it better than I could have possibly have imagined. The book is currently in schools in Fort McMurray and has been well received by the community there.
On The Line has large prints and is available at The Photographers Gallery Bookshop, The Whitechapel Gallery Bookshops, Claire De Rouen Books and my website.
‘a brave and visionary response’ - Robert Adams, Photographer
‘an elegiac field document, made at the site of Canada’s largest mass evacuation due to wildfire’ - Lucy Moore, Claire De Rouen Books
‘Beautiful, serene, stark. The elegance of the landscape jars with another reminder of our earth's turmoil.’ Maria Lisogorskaya, Artist and Architect, co-founder of Assemble and 2015 Turner Prize.
A project on Fire would not be complete without looking at fire in other capacities. Since 2018 I have been working in Australia to look at a very different understanding from the dangerous burning shown in the media.
Thank you for reading - the beginning of my journey into Fiery landscapes with you here. A subject that is coming closer to home, is one that we cannot excuse ourselves from its making.
If you have an interest in environmental research and would prefer to be independent of institutions, I’ve set up the Fire Group. It is a volunteer group. We are growing and looking for new members to increase our outputs and work towards funded projects. If you have a spare hour or two each week, please contact me to arrange time to talk.
Contact Alan for more information
This week we are extremely pleased to release one of Alan’s photographic work from his Combustion series in our ART+ECOLOGY edition store!
With 40% of the proceeds we aim to raise funds to support the Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation @bawinanga_aboriginal_corp
“My field work in Australia takes place in the only area of Indigenous control that remains on the continent. I nominate the family that hosted me in Arnhem Land and the Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation.
The organisation was established as an outstation resource agency in 1970. It was incorporated in 1979. Maningrida Arts and Crafts, which had been operating under the Maningrida Progress Association, became part of the corporation at this time.
Since its inception, Bawinanga has responded to the changing needs of its members and major shifts in government policy. They have consistently constructed and maintained housing on the homelands of their land-owning members.” @alan_mcfetridge
Combustion 11 by Alan McFetridge
Archival Giclée print on Hahnemühle Pearl 285 gsm paper
Numbered and signed - supplied with certificate of authenticity