Photographer Jim Cooke follows the river: Riparian at Portland's Drill Hall Gallery

By Ben Miller | 26 September 2012
A photo of the leaves and tiny stems of purple and white riverbank plants at night
Photographer Jim Cooke takes a trip along the river for his new show in Dorset© Jim Cooke
Exhibition Preview: Riparian – Photography by Jim Cooke, Drill Hall Gallery, Portland, until November 24 2012

As part of their London 2012-backed Stone Island series of exhibitions and events, Dorset arts collective the Portland Sculpture and Quarry Trust have made sterling use of the mid-19th century Drill Hall in Portland. Most notably they welcomed Japanese artists working with locally-quarried stone and sacred art-offering Tibetan Monks.

Their latest visitor, Jim Cooke, is a senior lecturer at the University of Brighton whose work is held by collections including the V&A. Riparian sees Cooke take the three strands of River, Marginal Plants of the Thames and a Microscope, illuminating plants at dusk in their position as borders between space and land.

A photo of a series of small long brown plants against a white background
© Jim Cooke
“My initial studies involved isolating particular clumps of vegetation against a void of darkness, revealing the specific form and detail of certain species,” he says.

“I have worked along the river at different times through the whole year to give the work the seasonality it needs.

“As a walker, boater and fisherman I have long been aware of its beauty and diversity, but it is only recently that the familiarity has become a deeper fascination for me."

Cooke says work by photographers such as Susan Derges and Thomas Struth, as well as books on botanical illustration, have “fired my passion” and “strengthened my resolve” during an extensive research period.

He’s no stranger to the Hall, having previously been a co-researcher for the trust, contributed photos to archives and exhibitions about Portland stone and the regeneration of the quarry and led a week-long community photography course there as part of a community education campaign.

More pictures:

A photo of a series of thin riverbank plants illuminated against a pitch black night
© Jim Cooke
A photo of two small white and brown flowers against a white background
© Jim Cooke
A photo of the reflection of trees in a white river against a pitch black night
© Jim Cooke
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