Chris Mear. Five Years: A Reciprocal Tribute

Legacy: A Reciprocal Tribute is an artwork conceived by Patricia Swannell in response to The Woodland Trusts flagship Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee. 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. Five years ago Staffordshire University graduate Chris Mear was commissioned to photograph this selected family in the same spot in Leicestershire each year. 2018 marks Chris's 5th year as the commissioned photographer.


I could agrue that 2014 was my most succesful year to date. I became an artist in residence, I published my first book and I landed a modest succession of commissions which just about saw me through the remainder of the year. It was, finally, the year that I could actually defend the claim that I was a “photographer” - a claim which I have to admit I’ve, more often than not, not had the confidence to defend. But when it all starts winding down and I’m sat in a tree looking back at my brief holiday on earth, I will most probably remember the year 2014 for one thing above all others - a commission that goes by the name of Legacy: A Reciprocal Tribute. A commission that, all being well, will see me well into what I’m told they used to call “retirement age”.

The London based, Canadian born artist, Patricia Swannell was asked to come up with a location based artwork for the Woodland Trust’s flagship commemoration of the Queen’s diamond jubilee in 2012 - that’s 60 years on the old thrown. Interestingly, what Patricia devised was a “photo point” in a carefully selected location within the wood - selected to compose people, trees and landscape. 

The idea was, to me at least, both beautiful, poigniant and simple. To chart the growth of yourself alongside the development of your family the woodland and the wider landscape.

Patricia also visited the woodland site in the early days of it’s post-industrial transition and collected 60 native plants and wildflowers from which she made 60 etchings to make up a permanent exhibition - which moves to a new home this autumn. Each year one of these etchings will be replaced by my portrait of the Martinson family, a local family who live just a pleasent evenings stroll away from the wood.

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This Sunday evening will be the fifth exposure, the fifth year. And so far each time I have made that walk to the photo point I have been unable to prevent my mind from thinking to the future; what will this all be like in 60 years time? This year however, I intend to try extra hard to not venture though my mind in some ludicrous attempt to construct an imaginary future. My rabbit of almost seven years died this week and I hope to pay respect to my friend, my best friend, and teacher by beginning to practice his most important teaching; Life Is Now.

So I will experience the woodland for what it is, a wild place where the two Martinson boys are growing faster than the trees. A place of peace and natural unity which leaves you feeling a sense of hope and optimism in a world dominated by a species that all to often seems intent on losing its remarkable mind.

How lucky I am, to have been in such a right place, at such a right time to land a photography gig like this.