Philip Braham
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FALLING SHADOWS IN ARCADIA

RSA Morton Award 2010

In Poussin’s painting ‘Et in Arcadia Ego’ a shepherd points to this inscription on a gravestone. The Latin phrase is translated as “Even in Arcadia, death is present” and the painting can be understood as a ‘memento mori’, a reminder of our mortality. Beneath the pointing finger a shadow falls, touching the fingertip of the shepherd. This shadow is the harbinger of death that will inevitably follow, even in the idyll of Arcadia.

The series of photographs that I have produced for the RSA Morton Award 2010 takes the theme of the brevity of our being, measured against the enduring nature of the landscape. Through exceptionally long exposures, the figures in these images are recorded as ghosts that seem absorbed in a strange and uncomfortable narrative, while the landscape is sharp and faithfully described.

The images are thus a reminder of our mortality, but the ‘falling shadows’ are also a reference to a moral decline in our less than idyllic society. The landscapes are notorious ‘dogging’ sites in Scotland, while the narratives point to events that have happened there at prior times: the double murders in Templeton Woods, or a rape in Roslin Glen etc. However, these are not depicted literally, and the images are given titles that refer to classical biblical themes instead. Meaning moves away from the specific towards the poetic.

Philip Braham
June 2010

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 All images and content ©2010 Philip Braham