Fay Godwin

Fay Godwin started by making snapshots of her family when she was in her early thirties then later she became concerned with portraiture, making photographs of writers in particular such as Günter Grass, Doris Lessing and Edna O'Brien, who she met mostly through her husband Tony Godwin who was a publisher.

But as well as rubbing shoulders with famous artists, Fay Godwin loved walking, and a large part of her photographic output is about the British landscape.

She published her first collection of landscape photographs, Land, in 1985, and which had an essay by John Fowles. It is said to be one of the best studies of the British landscape every published. It led to an interview on the South Bank Show and huge interest and future support from the Arts Council.

Above: Cover Photograph of Bison at Chalk Farm and Other Snaps
by Fay Godwin

She photographed Ted Hughes in 1971, setting the shot of him in the Calder Valley, and later collaborated with him on a book of poems by Hughes and photographs by Godwin set in Yorkshire, entitled The Remains of Elmet. Clearly this was a genre that worked well for Godwin, the marriage of poetry with photographs, and her photographs were chosen to complement Shakespeare's This Sceptere'd Isle. The images in the book range from Orkney in the very far north of Scotland down to the Isles of Scilly, showing a British landscape that is beautiful and unspoilt.

Above: Cover Photograph of Landmarks by Fay Godwin

Godwin is renowned also for her meticulous planning, eye for detail and almost saintly patience when working. She had a preference for medium format cameras and would lug her heavy equipment up hillsides in all sorts of weather in order to get just the shot she wanted. But when digital cameras came on the scene she embraced the new technology, sold her darkroom equipment of 30 years standing and started printing her pictures with Photoshop. But in spite of her obvious mastery of the medium, she said:

"I don't get wrapped up in technique and the like. I have a simple rule and that is to spend as much time in the location as possible. You can't expect to take a definitive image in half an hour. It takes days, often years. And in fact I don't believe there is such a thing as a definitive picture of something. The land is a living, breathing thing and light changes its character every second of every day. That's why I love it so much."

Godwin's love of walking led her becoming president of the Ramblers' Association from 1987 to 1990. She died aged 74 leaving 11,000 prints to the British Library. You can find her work in many public collections such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Mappin Art Gallery in Sheffield.

Recommended Reading

Customers in the UK please follow this link to see Fay Godwin Books in your UK store.

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