Jem Southam (1950)

Jem Southam (1950) is an English photographer, he is recognised for his colour landscape images which are concerned with the idea of a balance between nature and human intervention.

Southam utilises a large format camera which provides him with the ability of capturing his landscape images with an extraordinary amount of detail, he contact prints his 8×10 inch negatives to create the level of detail which these images possess.

SOUTHAM, J. (1997) The Pond at Upton Pyne. [85cm x 68cm Photograph].
What attracted my attention towards Southam’s photographic work is the complexity of the large format camera, in relation to the logistics of a photoshoot – e.g. travel, setting the shot, long exposure times, developing and processing the film. This style/process of photography is arguably more rewarding than that of digital, as you have to be more observant and as each slide/negative costs money, it is a slower method which ensures you as the photographer pay attention towards what you are photographing and how you achieve the end result.

Furthermore Southam’s photographs have a wonderful colour palette and the subject matters recorded and the way it has been achieved, particularly through the use of a low, neutral viewpoint/composition both invites viewers to observe the location and the continuity and repetition of vantage point further implies a documentative style…perhaps the idea of self-exploration?

As noted by Jem Southam (2013) taking photographs which do not motivate and/or push you as a photographer makes the overall experience unenjoyable; personally it is of intrinsic importance to ensure that when creating photographs, you try to excel and develop to reach your full potential.

‘If it is too easy to make pictures it is I think less enjoyable. Surely this is the same with all endeavours – as humans we want to be challenged and to work through problems, and the tougher they get the more they demand of us and when we work though them the greater the reward. If it was easy to make great pictures how many of us would bother?’ (Jem Southam, 2013)

The idea or motivation for looking and considering self-exploration is based upon family experiences, as well as simply wanting to learn more about how it is I am actually feeling, an area which I do not explore and is extremely difficult to express.

Ensuring the assignment and deelopment as a professional, was as motivating as possible, exploring a picture-making which is not easy, shall allow me to undertake a journey, a challenge and if the results are as rewarding as I envisage them to be, it might be a long-term project also which I can continue to pursue.

Self exploration is long overdue and actually in my opinion is an area in which every practitioner should undertake to uncover and understand themselves better; also having the potential to support and inform their work further.


Reference List:

V&A. (2017) Landscape Photography By Jem Southam. [Online] Available from: [Last Accessed: February 2017].

V&A. (2017) The Pond at Upton Pyne. [Online Image] Available from: [Last Accessed: February 2017].

NADOLSKI, A. (2013) Jem Southam In Conversation With Andrew Nadolski. [Online] Available from: [Last Accessed: February 2017].


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