Isabella Campbell

A 2019 Highly Commended MA Photography graduate selected by Photograd.

University: Falmouth University


Artist Statement:
"More famous long ago than for the salmon’s leap
For beavers Tivy was, in her strong banks that bred,
Which else no other brook of Britain nourished …”
- Michael Drayton, 1622, extract from the Poly-Olbion poem

TEIFI is long-term body of work concerns the phenomena of the river Teifi that I live beside in rural Wales. The series reflects the river’s filmic qualities, and my relationship with it from photographing and walking through its surroundings day to day since June 2016. The work conceptually revolves around the idea of the "sensory plate of perception" through the lens. This opens up a philosophical enquiry into the phenomenology of perception, duration and transparency, which collectively form the Teifi phenomena.

This particular part of the Teifi was fundamentally vital to the local community's formation. Despite its industrial past, the local gorge is considered to be one of the most ‘sublime’ spots to experience the Teifi, and a place where even Turner had revisited to paint several observations. Ever since the old slate quarries retired in production, the woods have taken back the area, leaving the oldest parts of the ancient woodland to flourish.

Due to the river's presence the wooded gorge creates natural high levels of humidity, and maintains this level during it's summer months due to the tree canopy, which limits evaporation by the sun. As a result the woodland is a haven for mosses, ferns and huge numbers of lichen species. The lower reaches of the Teifi gorge have another special brooding quality that can be experienced whereby, along with a gentle breath of the wind, the river winds its way almost silently between the densely wooded sides with their distinctive under-story flora of wood rush.

As an observation by Gerald Cambrensis in 1188 suggests, the Teifi is rather unique with a particular spiritual aura as it was said to be one of the very few rivers in Britain to once inhabit beavers at the time:

"The Teivi has another singular particularity. Of all the rivers in Wales, and those in England south of the Humber, it is the only one where you can find beavers. In Scotland, or so they tell me, there is again only one stream where beavers live, and even there they are rare."

In the light of the environmental issues we face today, the work is to showcase a celebratory vision of what we stand to lose. It has been made sensitively in response to the environment and has become a series of painterly meditations, expressing the Teifi’s timeless environmental energies in order to convey the same experience I had when making it.

Images from the series  TEIFI

Images from the series TEIFI