© Colin Shaw

Increasing urbanisation and the industrialisation of farming has resulted in the alienation of the population from the land. Most people do not come into contact with farming and have little idea of what happens on a modern farm.

The countryside is increasingly depicted as devoid of people suggesting that nothing much happens there and that the landscape is empty and unused.

In popular landscape photography there is a strong emphasis on wild, open spaces that show little, if any human activity. There might be the occasional grazing sheep, or even a lonely bucolic figure accurately placed in the shot, but nothing more is allowed to intrude. What is missing is recognition that human beings have an intimate relationship with the land and have worked and shaped it for centuries.

© Colin Shaw

The Farmwork project documented the work and workers of agriculture. The photography was completed between January 1984 and December 1986. Around 10,000 negatives were produced from all parts of the UK. The total distance travelled was over 10,000 miles.

The end result was two exhibitions: the main exhibition consisted of 80 framed prints either 20″ x 16″ (50cm x 40cm)  or 24″ x 20″ (60cm x 50cm) printed on Ilford Galerie fibre based paper. The prints were processed to archival standard, selenium toned and dry mounted onto acid free board.

A smaller exhibition of 24 laminated panels of photographs and text was designed for non-gallery spaces.

The exhibitions were toured for four years and shown at more 80 venues in the UK. Thirty of the prints were purchased by Conoco UK for their Warwick offices.

In June 2016 cafe Royal Books published a new book of the farmwork images which can be found here

Please note: all images are the copyright of Colin Shaw and must not be reproduced, copied or published in any medium without written consent. Prints for the original negatives are available, please enquire here.

The Farmwork collection is housed at the Museum of English Rural Life at the University of Reading.See the online gallery at MERL here  and the MERL article here