Review by Gerhard Clausing •
Where and what is home? And when you go back, how does the changed reality compare to your childhood memories and yearning?
Arcadia is a concept that represents mythical and dreamy fiction, a land of freedom and plenty, a kind of paradise that exists in only the finest moments of our memories that we retain as a wholesome recollection. For many centuries people have dreamed of such ideal locations and existences, going back to the writers of ancient Greece. In the rest of Europe the imagined paradise realms named Coquaine (French), Cokayne (Irish), and Schlaraffenland (German) are but a few examples of idealized places that have occupied people’s imagination since the Middle Ages.
How then does an astute photographer (who was exposed to several cultures earlier) synthesize his childhood visions with his current observations, regarding a place that has changed, just as he has? Ian Howorth lived in a number of places before landing in England:
“Having lived in 3 different countries by the time I was 15, left me with a confused sense of identity. Going into my thirties much more sure-footed and confident, the need for answers was no longer desperate, but an important puzzle for self-realisation. … The places I visit are reminders of visiting England as a young boy in the 80’s and 90’s and are a way of reconnecting with somewhere by going back in time – seeing and feeling the textures of the places which would have been commonplace had I always been here. In order to really understand this country, I try to connect all the disconnected pieces. I think this is the only way I’m going to get to really feel like this is home.”
Thus we see that in his case there was a need to synthesize and integrate his childhood experiences with his current understanding of England, his chosen place of residence for the last 20 years. The project includes many color images showing everyday locations as well as neglected or abandoned places from various parts of England. The viewer senses that the author is genuinely fond of his chosen land, and the overall treatment of all he observes is constructive and supportive. The images show both typical situations and locations as well as off-moments, perhaps in order to balance feelings of nostalgia for what once was with the keen wryness of the adult eye that realizes that bygones are bygones and that all puzzles will have some pieces that don’t seem to fit, at least at first. We get a sense that this is a search that seeks fulfillment.
Joining a new country as a teen requires many adjustments, and the journey through Britain that Howorth takes us on lets us see firsthand that he may have arrived at a constructive synthesis. Many of the images show subtleties of color, often in subdued lighting, and we also sense the photographer’s fondness of film as a capture medium. It is interesting to note that there are hardly any recognizable people shown in the images. We are thus asked to fill mysterious locations with details from our own recollections. Howorth’s journey thus also becomes the viewer’s journey – we have all seen such places and situations into which our prior memories could be projected.
It is a special tribute to Howorth’s work that the first printing is already sold out; the search that he has visualized in this project resonates well with all those who are also seeking a more integrated sense of self within their chosen homeland.
Ian Howorth – Arcadia
Photographer: Ian Howorth (born in Peru; resides in Brighton, England)
Publisher: Setanta Books, London, UK; © 2019
Texts: A poem dedicated to the author’s father
Clothbound hardback with sewn binding and illustrated fabric cover; 114 pages, unpaginated; 29.5 x 20 cm (11.5 x 7.75 inches)
Photobook Designer: Tom Page