Future Photograd: Chris Mear


Series statement
Legacy: A Reciprocal Tribute is an artwork conceived by Patricia Swannell in response to The Woodland Trusts flagship Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubillee Wood in Normanton-le-Heath, Leicestershire. The woodland, officially unveiled in 2012 to mark the Queens Diamond Jubilee, has filled 460 acres of former mining and agricultural land with 300,000 native trees. Patricia’s artwork takes the form of a plinth, inviting local families to make an annual family photograph against the backdrop of the developing trees. Charting both the changes in their family and the changes in the landscape they collectively call home.

You can find out more about The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Wood here.

Length and influences
The series will take 60 years to complete - a tribute to the Queens Diamond Jubilee. Just one photograph each year, no post-production, no edit. Just pose, compose, shoot, print and exhibit.

For me, there are no theoretical influences for this work. Just the landscape and the family. We meet just before sunset. Take a slow walk down to the plinth. Pose and compose ourselves. And I just make the one exposure. Jobs a good ‘un, as they say. It’s a dream, really.

I became involved in Legacy in 2014 as my contacts were passed on through another local commission. Patricia had been collecting flowers and plants from the site during the development of the woodland, to create 60 etchings which would go on permanent exhibition at a local museum. The Woodland Trust then selected a local family who had shown keen interest and support in the wood. The idea was to commission a local photographer each year to photograph the selected family from the plinth, and each photograph would replace an etching each year. 

I feel enormously privileged to have been in the right place at the right time to have been asked to carry this beautiful project through to it’s completion. And every July when this shoot comes around I get excited beyond belief. It really is a very quietly beautiful evening to be part of. So, like I mentioned earlier, I’m just trying not to put too much time into pondering how it will look or how things will have changed by the time it’s complete, because when it’s done, I’ll be done too! I might not even be able to complete it! So I’m just savouring every moment of, and in-between, each photograph. I’m following my Grandma’s advice. I’m not wishing it away. 

Future aims
My future aims for this particular project is to just watch how it develops really. I’ll be 83 when I make the last exposure, all being well, so it’s a lifelong project and I don’t want to think about the end too much. As my Grandma always tells me “don’t wish your life away!” The outcome of the work has already been established with the developing exhibition, although it is currently looking for new home due to the demolition of it’s previous residence. It might be nice to see the completed work in a book, but at 83 years old will I have the energy or desire to commit to that? Who knows? Alongside each commissioned portrait I’m also making an annual self-portrait, or is it a selfie now? It’ll be interesting for me to sit and look through those one day anyway.