Since 2011 David Foster has used photography to explore the concept of place, often in the context of the work of other artists. This project continues to pursue these interests through an exploration of places in Southern England associated with the painter, photographer and writer Paul Nash.
Foster’s artistic practice involves responding emotionally and intuitively to the places and spaces in which he works, the resulting images coming to document less the places themselves than the energies the artist finds there. The interface between nature and culture is a recurrent theme in Foster’s photography, and consequently he is often drawn to places such as edgelands, wastelands, and borderlands, and to ruined, derelict and abandoned places. His work often explores the transitory nature of human presence: the traces, both physical and intangible, of the departed, and the ways these human traces commingle with the more enduring presences of nature.
The images and videos created for this project constitute Foster’s response both to the places in which Nash lived and worked, and to the dynamics that Nash brought out of them in his own imagery. Having already made images in and around a number of places that feature prominently in Nash’s oeuvre, Foster conceived this project as a way to respond to Nash more directly and extensively. Well-trodden locales were revisited – Avebury, Romney Marsh, Iver Heath, the Chilterns, Wittenham Clumps – and territory hitherto unwalked by Foster was explored at Studland, Chesil Beach, and along the Jurassic Coast.
In all of his work informed by other artists, Foster enters into a dialogue with the places in which particular artists worked, and with the imagery they created there. The artist and their work become something of a guiding spirit to his own journeys in and around those places. Recent photography projects have taken him to the American South to make images in places associated with the late musician Mark Linkous, and to Ireland to respond to places associated with the painter and writer Jack B.Yeats. Other artists that his practice has engaged with over the years have included John Clare, Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett.
In the relatively early stages of this project, Foster began working extensively with double exposure photographs, finding this to be an effective means of engaging with what Nash referred to as ‘the life of the inanimate object’, and of uncovering, or forging, correspondences in nature. The resulting images often experiment with fractal, almost kaleidoscopic imagery, variously evoking both a mystical and a playful engagement with place, with objects, and with the natural world. As with all of Foster’s photographic work, the images and videos are titled with a grid reference (in this case the Ordnance Survey grid reference code) giving the location where the work was made. All of the images were made in camera and not subject to any digital manipulation. That is to say, the double exposures are created 'in the field' using the camera itself, not in 'post-production'.
Found objects formed an increasingly important part of Nash’s practice as his career developed, and the project yielded a number of found objects that Foster brought back from his peregrinations into Nash country.
David Foster was born in Aldershot in November 1979 and grew up in Northumberland. He studied at the Universities of Plymouth, Newcastle, and Reading, and completed a PhD at the latter in 2011, in the Department of Film, Theatre and Television, where he currently teaches. His writing on film and photography, amongst other subjects, has appeared in various books and academic journals, and online.