Oliver Udy & Colin Robins
The Anthology of Rural Life is an ongoing photographic project by Oliver Udy and Colin Robins. A photographic project whose intentions are to produce an archive of material that reveals and documents continuities and shifts in patterns of rural life.
Oliver and Colin have created new work in the village and civic parish of Meriden, Warwickshire. The decision to photograph in and around Meriden was prompted by two factors; one geographical and one symbolic. Meriden sits in what is sometimes called the ‘Meriden Gap’ – this identifies the, roughly 10 square mile radius of rural, pastoral and agricultural land situated in Solihull and bordered by Birmingham and Coventry. Equally Meriden promotes itself as the traditional ‘centre’ of England and this is manifested in the plaque on an ancient cross standing on the village green as well as in the ‘Heart of England Social Club’ and the ‘Heart of England Conference and Events Center’.
Meriden then, presents a microcosm of the various forces impacting upon contemporary rural life. This includes farming, land ownership and management and green-belt developments (including a prospective hub of the new HS2 initiative). Equally it, rather self- consciously, presents an ‘image’ of England framed by notions of tradition, nationalism and social and cultural identities. These latter factors have been amplified by Britain’s withdrawal from membership of the European Union.
Both of these aspects, the physical and the symbolic offer rich territories to visually investigate. Furthermore, given the current circumstances surrounding Covid 19 which somewhat compromised interactions with individuals – it was the landscape and architecture of the region that the photographers decided to concentrate upon, and perhaps are best placed to express some of these themes.
The duo have made a new series of images in the West Midlands to add to previous studies made across different areas of Europe. This will extend the body of work in terms of location, but also offer a chance to engage with particular aspects of the region, including the contemporary representation of the rural idyll in a contemporary multi-cultural, digital society.
Image Credit: The Anthology Of Rural Life, by Oliver Udy & Colin Robins.