Jem Southam: 'Birds, Rocks, River and Islands', The Levinsky Gallery, University of Plymouth, Jan–Mar 2019

Jem Southam: 'Birds, Rocks, River and Islands', The Levinsky Gallery, University of Plymouth, Jan–Mar 2019



Land/Water and the Visual Arts is an international network of artists, filmmakers, writers, curators, scholars and researchers who embrace a diversity of creative and critical practices.
Operating as a forum for the interrogation of nature, culture, aesthetics, and representation relating to land, landscape and place, we generate work that addresses a range of issues, including environmental change, sustainability, journey, site and regional specificity. In addition, a forum for theoretical and methodological debate is constructed through research events, exchange exhibitions with other higher education institutions, conferences, symposia and publications.
Since 2019, we have developed the International Environmental Arts Research Network to look at crucial insights informing our understanding of current environmental issues and climate change.
Video still from Prosperous Mountain, Heidi Morstang
Still image from the film 'Prosperous Mountain', Heidi Morstang

Events 2020–21

Current exhibition: Seedscapes: Future-Proofing Nature

Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, 3 July–5 September 2021
The Dick Institute, Kilmarnock, 11 September–11 December 2021
Featuring Dornith Doherty, Sant Khalsa, Chrystel Lebas, Heidi Morstang and Liz Orton.
In a world shaped by Covid-19, it seems more important than ever to consider nature, biodiversity, and the environment. Seedscapesbrings together five contemporary artists exploring global efforts to safeguard vital plant species from extinction. Plant diversity is rapidly declining and faces threats from global warming, pollution and war. Yet without seeds and their potential for food and medicine, we cannot sustain ourselves. Featuring photography, moving images and sculpture, Seedscapesreveals how international artists, biologists and ecologists are responding to these challenges.
The exhibition is curated by Liz Wells, professor in photographic culture, University of Plymouth.

Upcoming research seminar:
Jessica Lennan and Robert Darch

Virtual event, 26 May 2021, 14:00–15:30

Join via Zoom (Meeting ID: 932 1932 6213; Passcode: 387920)

Jessica Lennan, Dartmoor Cup Marked Stones

"I will be talking about the beginning of a new work, which is based on cup marked stones in Dartmoor and the use of clay to make imprints and casts of the cup marks. The project also marks a digression from my photographic practice and addresses questions about how to navigate and develop new approaches within a creative practice."

Jessica Lennan is a photographer and Lecturer based in the South West of England. Her work is a careful and sensitive investigation of the social environment and more specifically of the relationship between people and places. She graduated from the Ostkreuzschool for Photography (Berlin/Germany) in 2009 and completed an MA in Photography and the Book at the University of Plymouth in 2012.

Jessica Lennan, Cup Marked Stones. Land/Water.
Image credit: Jessica Lennan, 'Cup Stone'

Robert Darch, The Moor

Robert will discuss the importance of autobiography, memory, and place in relation to his work on Dartmoor, referencing his debut book, The Moor (2018). The Moor depicts a fictionalised dystopian future situated on the bleak moorland landscapes of Dartmoor. Drawing on childhood memories of Dartmoor alongside influences from contemporary culture, the narrative references local and universal mythology to give context but suggests something altogether more unknown. The realisation of this dystopian future is specifically in response to a perceived uncertainty of life in the modern world and a growing disengagement with humanitarian ideals. The Moor portrays an eerie world that shifts between large open vistas, dark forests, makeshift dwellings, uncanny visions, and isolated figures.

Robert Darch is a British artist-photographer based in the South West of England. He has published and exhibited widely, and his photographs reside in public and private collections. He holds an MFA with distinction in Photographic Arts and a MA with distinction in Photography & the Book from the University of Plymouth. He also has a BA with honours in Documentary Photography from Newport, Wales. Robert is an Associate Lecturer in Photography at the University of Plymouth.

Learn more about the Jessica and Robert's work on Dartmoor

Robert Darch, The Moors. Land/Water.
Image credit: Robert Darch


Seedscapes Symposium

Virtual event – 11 December

Why do seeds matter? How can artists and scientists work together? How might photographs catalyse change?

Join artists Dornith Doherty, Sant Khalsa, Chrystel Lebas, Heidi Morstang, and Liz Orton, as well as guest speakers, at this online event of presentations and discussions, chaired by Seedscapes curator Professor Liz Wells and Head of Programme Dr Pippa Oldfield.

Research seminars

Jessica Lennan & Robert Darch, Dartmoor

Virtual event – 26 May 2021, 14:00–15:30


Liz Wells speaker at 2020 Annual Conference for Society for Photographic Education, Houston, USA

'Environmental photography: Seeds and Sustainability'
Environmental concerns, including threats inherent in extreme climate change, frame a number of contemporary photographic explorations, whether activist, or more elliptical investigations of ecological shifts. What can art do? Evaluating photographic methods and aesthetic strategies, reference will be made to work by environmental artists and, in particular, to the forthcoming exhibition, 'Seedscapes: Future-proofing Nature' (Impressions Gallery, Bradford, Yorks., April 2020, then touring in UK).

Yan Wang Preston, Ten By Ten: New Discoveries Exhibition at FotoFest Houston, USA

Colin Robins, Anti-Authoritarians
Anti-Authoritarians – Berlin 1968 / 2018, Colin Robins

Past events



  • Symposium II: International Environmental Arts Research Network

Perspectives: glacial landscapes within contemporary photographic practices

21 April 2021, 8am–11am (UK) 9am–12pm (Sweden) 9pm–12am (New Zealand)

How do we intervene photographically in the Arctic and Antarctic regions? The polar history has many examples of photographers and artists travelling to the Arctic region and Antarctica. Due to environmental change, the last two decades has seen a rise in Art & Science expeditions to these regions. During this event we will unravel various artistic research approaches by some of our network researchers who have worked specifically with glacial landscapes. We will encourage a discussion around the purpose of these practices and highlight why it may be of significance to our understanding of climate change, and how we can further act on positive actions.

  • Research seminar

Dr Simon Standing and Dr Kayla Parker, 24 February 2021

Contemporary British Housing – Dr Simon Standing

Architecture and urban development continue to hold a major fascination for me. In a new photographic series, which I'm referring to as Contemporary British Housing, I explore a fascination with the way in which a particular form of housing development has been appearing in the British landscape. A number of major developments have emerged in the late 20/early 21 century that draw on periods of architectural history and new planning and construction ideologies such as the New Urbanism movement. Within these developments there is a sense of accelerated place-making that I find fascinating, and at the heart of which are individual homes built in a variety of architectural styles from across the centuries, arriving in a matter of months.

Surveying the Laira - Dr Kayla Parker

A presentation by artist filmmaker, Kayla Parker, about her recent explorations with filmmaker and sound artist Stuart Moore, on foot and by kayak, of the Laira, the upper tidal estuary of the River Plym, on the south west coast of Britain.

Over the centuries, discharges from the tin mining and china clay works on nearby Dartmoor to the north have silted up the estuarine channel so it is now only navigable by small boats at high tide. From the early part of the 19th century, successive reclamation projects have reduced the width of the Laira, with embankments along the east and west sides of the estuary shore removing the large tidal creeks at Lipson Lake, Tothill Bay and Chelson Creek, and the more recent creation of Blagdon’s Meadow, designated a Country Wildlife Site.

Parker and Moore have been making work in the area around the Laira’s southern shoreline since 2004, using 16mm and 35mm film and digital technologies, and will reflect on the precarity of this zone of land, whose existence and habitats are threatened by encroaching tidal waters and the impacts of increased human activity.



  • International Environmental Arts Research Network Symposium I
    25 November 2020
    Speakers: Laura Hopes (University of Plymouth), Johanna Mechen (Massey University, Wellington, NZ), Kevin Miles (Massey University, Wellington, NZ).

    Artistic research practice has a unique capacity to offer crucial insights informing our understanding of environmental issues in the Anthropocene. This symposium brings our researchers and postgraduate students together to share common research interests. 
  • Research Seminar: Anti-Authoritarians – Berlin 1968 / 2018
    Colin Robins
    4th March 2020
    2–3.30 pm
    SCB 102
    This work centres around individuals who had been involved in the Berlin student revolts of 1968. Produced in conjunction with the Free University in Berlin as well as the German Historical Institute in London, the aim was to acknowledge the range of differing perspectives - political, social and cultural - that had surfaced at this time. The photographs record those who had been members of the SDS, the German student union, which had been led by Rudi Dutschke. However secondary school protestors, dissidents from the DDR, ex-members of radical Maoist and anarchist groups, anti-Vietnam protestors and cultural as well as counter-cultural figures were traced and photographed. The work was shown in 2018/2019 in political conferences and exhibitions at Cambridge University, Bristol University as well as in London, Helsinki and Berlin. The work is archived at the Free University, Berlin.

    Colin Robins’ practice has frequently centred on relationships between places and the communities that occupy them.

    White Mining looked at, largely rural, communities and their environments across Europe and Ukraine as well as sites in the United States, Brazil and China in which kaolin and marble are mined, quarried or processed.

    The Anthology of Rural Life is an on-going, and collaborative project with photographer Oliver Udy. The work generates a comparative visual study of the continuities and differences in patterns of life within contemporary rural areas. These in turn reflect shifting economic, social and cultural forces occurring in diverse European contexts.

    In 2018-2019 Robins’ project Anti-authoritarians about the 1968 generation in Berlin was exhibited in London, Helsinki and Berlin. This work was presented alongside archive materials, artefacts and photographs (including hitherto unseen photographs made by the West and East German police during demonstrations in the late 1960s).

    In 2019 Robins photographed of the idiosyncratic Irish rural sport of road bowling in the country lanes near the Irish border. The work will be exhibited in Armagh in April 2020 in conjunction with photographer and lecturer at Middlesex University Michael Bradley who has been making a study of the road bowling scene in Cork.

    Colin Robins is a Lecturer in Photography, University of Plymouth

  • Research Seminar: Fedra Dekeyser (PhD)
    18th March 2020



  • Premiere Screening of Pseudotachylyte by Heidi Morstang at Bergen International Film Festival, Norway
    Film in two competition programmes: Norwegian Documentaries/Golden Owl competitions,
    Hedi Morstang
    25 September–3 October

  • Research Seminar: Deposited Ecologies and Archive Histories
    Wayne Barrar 
    25 September 2019

  • Symposium at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum Exeter: Collecting regions - Photography and a sense of place symposium 
    Speakers: Liz Wells, Garry Fabian Miller, Bronwen Colquhoun, Jo Bradford, Emma Down, Catherine Troiano, Brendan Barry, Mark Haworth-Booth
    18 September 2019

  • International Conference: Environmental Arts Practice Research
    Speakers: Professor Camille Parmesan, Professor Tyrone Martinsson, Anne Noble. Book signing: Yan Wang Preston
    25–26 April 2019

    The aim of this conference was to expand on and question how art can contribute to understanding contemporary environmental issues and challenges.

    Artistic research practice has a unique capacity to offer crucial insights informing our understanding of environmental issues in the era of the Anthropocene. The reflexivity inherent in arts research along with an emphasis on expressive communication as outcome offers significant scope for bringing crucial yet complex relationships between vulnerable species, human action and climate change to wider appreciation amongst general audiences and key stakeholders.

    Placing artistic interpretive methods alongside scientific interpretive methods carries some risks and challenges, particularly as artistic approaches may invite an open-ended, contemplative engagement with the scientific, sensorial and political layering of the environment, that is not typical of mainstream science communication. Ways in which arts practice complements and extends scientific insight will be centrally addressed. This conference was the first of a series of research events planned by the international research network linking University of Plymouth, Massey University, New Zealand and Valand Academy, Gothenburg University, Sweden.


    • Chris Cook awarded first prize at the Sunny Art Prize
      The prize is a solo show in London, a month-long residency in China, a group exhibition in Sunny's Shanghai space and a £3000 stipend.

    • Liz Wells presents work to the Visual Arts and Research programme at Valand Academy, Gothenburg University, Sweden, and to develop the International Research Network 'Environmental Arts Research'.

    • Pseudotachylyte
      Heidi Morstang presented new research work 'Pseudotachylyte' to the Visual Arts and Research programme at Valand Academy, Gothenburg University, Sweden, and to develop the International Research Network 'Environmental Arts Research'. The visit was funded by Erasmus+

    • Sensing Nature: Photography and Environmental Arts
      Liz Wells spoke at The Rooms Museum and Art Gallery in St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, to coincide with the opening of a major survey of work by Canadian environmental artist, Marlene Creates. October 16th 2019

      The talk was the final stop in a trip that also included public talks at Ryerson University, Toronto, and Concordia University, Montreal, along with visits to Ryerson Image Archive and to the National Collection of Photography at the National Gallery of Art, Ottawa.

    • Altered Ocean
      Professor Liz Wells recently wrote the essay ‘Picturing Plastic Oceans’ featured in Mandy Barker’s Altered Ocean (2019). Altered Ocean is a comprehensive catalogue of Mandy Barker’s photographic works exposing the crisis of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. The publication also includes an introduction by Professor Richard Thompson, Director of the Marine Institute.




    • 'Field Studies' winner of the Kraszna Krausz Best Photography Book 2018
      We are delighted to announce that artist Chrystel Lebas' publication Field Studies: Walking through Landscapes and Archives, designed by Hans Gremmen and published by Fw: books has won the Kraszna Krausz Best Photography Book 2018 on the 17 May. Chrystel is an associate artist of the University's Land/Water and the Visual Arts research group.
    • Exhibition explores beneath the surface of culture in Cyprus
      Artists from the University of Plymouth are taking part in an international exhibition which aims to offer a different perspective on life in Cyprus.

    • Professor Jem Southam returns from a stay in New Zealand, initiated by our long-standing relationship with the College of Creative Arts, Massey University, Wellington. 
      During the visit, he gave the annual Peter Turner Memorial Lecture at Te Papa, Wellington; participated in the second New Zealand PhotoBook festival; taught on a photography publishing workshop; led a session on planning for a national photography archive with museums from around the country; met with post-graduate students from Massey University; and began a photographic project in New Zealand; a start of a residency with the Photography department at Massey.

      His was the third artist-in-residency by staff from 'Land/Water and the Visual Arts Research Group' to visit Massey University, after Liz Wells in 2010 and Heidi Morstang in 2012. Anne Noble, Wayne Barrar and Caroline McQuarrie from Massey University, have each made work as a result of artist-in-residencies at University of Plymouth.

      Discussions also took place about extending the links between the two art schools through collaborative research, events and exchanges, which has been given potentially greater emphasis since Professor Chris Bennewith became Head of the School of Art, Design and Architecture at University of Plymouth. Chris was previously Associate Pro Vice Chancellor Enterprise for the College of Creative Arts.



    • ‘Father-land’ Work-in-progress from NiMAC / Land/Water Cyprus residency
      Kayla Parker / Stuart Moore 
      22 November 2017
    • Say Cheerio for Now
      Sally Waterman Exhibition and Seminar, 
      11-16 December 2017
    • Research seminar
      Esther Johnsen
      1 November 2017
    • On Location
      Kayla Parker Open exhibition at Sheffield Institute of Art Gallery 
      6–28 September 2017.
    • Critical Issues in Photography Today
       Photographies is co-edited by Liz Wells 
       University of Westminster, London UK. 
      18–19 May 2017, 
    • Annual Summer Symposium – 'Territories'
      Speaker: Emeric Lhuisset 
      22–23 June 2017 
    • Research seminar
      Speaker: Esther Johnson 
      10 May 2017 
    • Research seminar
       Speakers Fedra Dekeyser and Claudia Pilsl 
      15 March 2017
    • Safekeeping bees – 'An interdisciplinary exploration of the future for bees in Britain’ symposium
      Speakers: Nick Bentham-Green, Mark Edwards, Dr William Kirk, Professor Andrea Liggins, Amy Shelton
      18 January 2017


    • Professor Liz Wells awarded an honorary Doctorate
      Professor Liz Wells has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, for her contributions within the fields of photography history, theory, curation and criticism internationally. This is especially significant as there is a particular interest in photography and environment at Valand Academy (Department for Film, Photography, Fine Art and Literary Composition) and also an established working relationship between photography and the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg.
      The honorary doctoral conferment took place at their annual University doctoral degree ceremony on October 20 2017. 
      Liz Wells returned to Gothenburg to participate in a Valand Academy research day on 4 December 2017.
    • Design lecturer invited to judge prestigious national craft initiative
       Polly Macpherson, Associate Professor in 3D Design at the University of Plymouth, has been selected as one of the expert judges for the Woman's Hour Craft Prize 2017. 


    • Jem Southam research seminar – 14 November 2018
    • 'Shadows We Run For' exhibition – 11 July–10 August 2018.
    • Jose Maria Parreño: A Changing Art for a Changing Time – 23 March 2018
    • Land/Water and the Visual Arts Research Group and Moving Image Arts Research Group jointly presents Kaz Rahman – 28 February 2018
    • Kayla Parker/Stuart Moore ‘Father-land’ Work-in-progress from NiMAC and Land/Water Cyprus residency – 22 November 2017 
    • Research seminar – Esther Johnsen, 1 November 2017 
    • Kayla Parker’s ‘On Location’ screened in the In the Open exhibition at Sheffield Institute of Art Gallery – 6–28 September 2017 
    • 'Critical Issues in Photography Today' 18–19 May 2017, University of Westminster, London UK. 'Photographies' is co-edited by Liz Wells 
    • Annual Summer Symposium – 'Territories' 22–23 June 2017 – Speaker Emeric Lhuisset 
    • Research seminar – 15 March 2017 – Speakers Fedra Dekeyser and Claudia Pilsl 
    • Research seminar – 10 May 2017 – Speaker Esther Johnson 
    • Safekeeping bees – 'An interdisciplinary exploration of the future for bees in Britain’ symposium 
      Speakers: Nick Bentham-Green, Mark Edwards, Dr William Kirk, Professor Andrea Liggins, Amy Shelton – 18 January 2017 
    • Annual Summer Symposium: Journeys and Transmission – 16–17 June 2016 
    • Symposium: Traffic: movement / place / flow / mobility – 14–16 April 2016 
    • Annual Summer Symposium: Wilderness / Wildness – Speakers: Liz Wells, Eva Cooney, Daro Montag, Jay Griffiths, Stephen Huggett, Temujin Doran and Angus Carlisle – 25–26 June 2015 
    • Exhibition: Flow – 30 November–26 December 2014 
    • Annual Summer Symposium 2014 ‘Nocturnal’ – Speakers: Nick Alfrey, Angela Kingston, Susan Derges, Jem Southam, William Arnold, Milo Newman, Liz Nicol, Louisa Fairclough, Tabatha Andrews, Fergus Heron and Chrystel Lebas 
    • Annual Summer Symposium 2013 ‘Mapping’ 
      Speakers: David Chandler, Jean Delseaux, Caitlin Desilvey, Justin Partyka, Yan Preston, Susan Trangmar, Oliver Udy, Martin Warren, Pascale Weber and David Wyatt 
    • 2012 ‘Water: Image’ International Conference. Keynote speakers: Deborah Bright (US), Per Bak Jensen (DK) and international speakers 
    • 2011 Annual Summer Symposium ‘No Man’s Land’ 
      Speakers: Alev Adil, Anthony Haughey, Anne Noble, Emma Stibbon, Liz Wells and Anthony Caleshu 
    • 2010 Annual Summer Symposium ‘Land and the Metaphysical’ 
      Speakers: David Williams, Jo Love and Mike Evans, David Rayson, Jane Grant and Peter Cusack 
    • 2009 Annual Summer Symposium ‘Land and Expedition’ 
      Speakers: Anne Burke, Melanie Challenger, Neville Gabie, Vicky Long, Jorma Puranen and Stephen Vaughan 

    Network members/collaborators

    Rachael Allain – PhD; Above and Below the Horizon: a Practice-led Investigation into the Liminal Thresholds of the Ocean 

    Wayne Barrar – Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

    Caroline Burke

    Dr Lu La Buzz – PhD; The States and Status of Clay: Material, Metamorphic and Metaphorical Values. 

    Chris Cook

    Robert Darch

    Fedra Dekeyser – PhD; Unearth: Visual Strategies to Reveal and Regenerate Hidden Histories

    Kate Isherwood

    Chrystel Lebas

    Professor Tyrone Martinsson – HDK-Valand, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

    Caroline McQuarrie – Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

    Liz Nicol

    Professor Anne Noble – Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

    Dr Luca Nostri – PhD; Place and identity in Italian photography through a study of the town of Lugo 

    Dr Kayla Parker

    Mary Pearson – PhD

    Dr Claudia Pilsl – PhD; Digital Porosity and its Impact on the Mediation of Networked Images 

    Dr Yan Preston – PhD; Yangtze The Mother River: Photography, Myth and Deep-Mapping 

    Colin Robins

    Professor Emeritus Jem Southam

    Dr Simon Standing

    Stephen Vaughan

    Dr Sally Waterman – PhD; Visualising The Waste Land: Exploring Processes of Self-Representation 

    Professor Emeritus Liz Wells

    Dr David Wyatt – PhD; Landscape of Legislation: A photographic Investigation of the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

    'The Lawes of the Marches' – copyright Katie Davies 2015