Photo-Canopy 2016

You might expect the boundary of a forest to be clearly visible, marked by the point where trees thin out into grass and open ground, but in the case of the National Forest, which occupies an area of around 200 square miles and spans the counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire, you'd be mistaken. Of course, a boundary can be marked in many ways, and those made by physical and natural transitions - between coastline and sea, mountain ranges and valleys - are in a minority. Most boundaries are imaginary constructions, administrative markers, lines on maps that refuse to reveal themselves in the landscape when we stand where the lines are, if our maps are to be believed.

Tracing the edge of the National Forest is a question of continually crossing and re-crossing an invisible line. It fluctuates under our car's wheels as we drive from Burton-upon-Trent, with its futuristic silver brewery towers and red brick buildings, between the scattershot clutter of disposable architecture making up supermarket retail parks and industrial estates, bends itself around traffic islands and dual carriageways, weaves a path on which we encounter villages and fields of rare breed cattle, low stone bridges and reservoirs, reclaimed coalfields and ancient agricultural settlements. This KFC lies outside the boundary; that carpet warehouse or tyre workshop fits snugly inside. We see few trees in this part of the forest.

This is because the National Forest was not designated, or its boundaries drawn, to map a feature that already existed, but rather to mark out a space where a forest was envisioned. The area on the map that was chosen to become the National Forest in 1990 was selected precisely because its landscape, with former coalfield towns like Ashby-de-la-Zouch and Swadlincote at its heart, had only 6% of its total area covered by woodland, making the sustainable development of further tree cover both possible and desirable. That 6% had risen to 18% by 2009 and the proportion of actual forest to imaginary forest increases a little more each year, dependent on funding, weather and permissions to utilise land for the purpose.

Photo-Canopy 2014

For three years photographers Jill Cole, Brian Griffin and Julian Hughes embarked on individual residencies responding to the diverse heritage and evolving environment, which covers over 200 square miles. The exhibition presented new bodies of work and drew their responses together for the first time, with Cole's layered landscapes, Griffin's portraits of staff and students at Burton & South Derbyshire College and Hughes' documents of walking the borderline of the forest.
Jill Cole
Brian Griffin
Julian Hughes
Mark Davies
Marie Holliday

Artists 2016

Marie Holliday


Aaron Yeandle


David Severn


Marie Holliday - Proposal

I aim to create pictorial notations in response to a journey along the River Trent within the National Forest. The Trent has a huge amount of personal interest to me as I have lived, played, worked, and produced work around it for most of my life. I have therefore chosen to join a long-standing interest with a new one, the river and sound.

A project that I have been working on as part of my MA is that of walking the course of the River Trent from it's source on the southern edge of Biddulph Moor to where it joins the River Ouse at Trent Falls forming the Humber Estuary. I documented an artist walking the boundary of the National Forest as part of Photo~Canopy 2014. My interest in recording sound also began around this time and I produced several sound recordings to accompany the images that I captured including the buzzing emitted from high-tension power lines and sounds of the river.

My initial research has mainly focused on graphic notations, as there has been extensive research and development of work in this area over the past 50 years. In 2008, Theresa Sauer edited the compendium 'Notations 21' featuring graphic scores by composers from over 50 countries, which evidences how prevalent the practice has become. When first studying the book I went from page to page, wanting to catch sight of some form of photographic content within the scores and immediately began thinking about the possibilities.

I plan to explore the following: the link between image and sound, traditional notation, mapping a space through sound, graphic scores and acoustics. I will implement, test and review my theory and ideas by creating images that can be read and interpreted through sounds, investigating how photographic compositions can be interpreted into musical improvisation via means of a pictorial score. I will then move on to create photographic images that I will experiment with to create pictorial scores as opposed to more traditional and graphical scores. These scores will then be performed by sound artists as part of the Photo~Canopy 2016 exhibition later on this year.

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Aaron Yeandle - Proposal

I will be liaising with Burton College to provide an excellent opportunity for student learning. This project will widen the scope of the National Forest to new cultural audiences within the local community. The photographs will capture the life and work of it's people, buildings and the stories of it's ever-changing landscape. This project will establish the forest's identity as a unique and emerging part of the Midlands.

The National Forest is a huge sprawling space to photograph. I will focus my response to the Photo-Canopy residency on Swadlincote and it's surrounding areas. I chose Swadlincote for a number of reasons. It is at the heart of the National Forest, steeped in a rich industrial history and has been through a lot of dramatic changes over the decades. New conurbations have sprung up, with new shopping areas and a cinema having been constructed on old industrial ground. New communities have emerged, however Swadlincote still seems to suffer from past stigmas. I have a personal motive for concentrating on the Swadlincote area since I grew up in the town and spent my formative years there. I now have an opportunity to go back and photograph this part of the National Forest. I left Swadlincote over 20 years ago, but my parents have been living in Swadlincote for over 30 years.

A few times a year I return to Swadlincote to visit my Family and can observe how much Swadlincote has changed. However at the same time I can see that in many cases it has not. With photography I have rediscovered Swadlincote, it's community and it's surrounding areas. I will focus on the town's unique suburban spaces and the little eccentricities of suburban life - of boundaries and flora. I will be capturing the ever-changing facades of the town center and the once industrial areas. Given that space is never neutral, the work will concern itself with private and municipal spaces. The photographs will allow us to appreciate the everyday. They will entice us to give pause for observation and reflection on a area that is often glimpsed but scarcely pondered.

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David Severn - Proposal

Over the course of Photo-Canopy 2016 I will make a series of photographs within The National Forest exploring the relationship between the residents and the evolutionary landscape they inhabit. Referring to the area's industrial history within my depiction of place, I will pair together portraits of local people alongside photographs surveying the topography of The National Forest. These images will reflect on the arrangement of natural and artificial physical features in the landscape.

Having experience of making work in similar post-industrial parts of the UK, I will employ a familiar research lead approach as in previous projects. I am interested in several cultural and ecological phenomenons of The National Forest which will form a point of departure for the work. The area's major industries have heavily tapped the land's natural resources. Coal was mined for centuries and even today subterranean springs pump the much celebrated water of Burton-On-Trent. The water, charmed for the global success of the local brewing industry, is a fabled ingredient in Burton beers owing to its high mineral content.

Contemplating the nature of these industries, I am compelled to produce a body of work loosely interpreting the theme of 'extraction'. Investigating local culture, mythologies and the vernacular, my Photo-Canopy project will look beneath the surface to capture the people and places of The Natural Forest and its distinctive rural-urban mix.

I intend to involve students of Burton & South Derbyshire College in the making of the project in several ways. Students will have the chance to shadow me on photoshoots, gaining insight into professional documentary photography practice. I hope to have an active and critically engaging relationship with students and staff at the college during the project in order to gather feedback. Input from students and staff will gently steer the direction of the work. I also hope to utilise local knowledge of students familiar with The National Forest area to inform the work.

I will hold two workshop sessions during Photo-Canopy 2016. One will consist of a portfolio review day with students where I will evaluate their project work and offer support on a one-to-one basis. The second session will be a portrait photography workshop, focused on building students' confidence in capturing portraits. The session will cover a history of photographic portraiture and a range of approaches to different portraiture styles, from close-ups to environmental portraits, with formal examples. Based in the classroom and on the street, the workshop will explore capturing portraits in a natural every-day environment utilising available light and introducing the capabilities of flash.

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  • Wednesday 10th February (1:15-5PM)
  • Portfolio Review with David Severn
  • Saturday 27th February (10-2)
  • Walking in the National Forest with Marie Holliday
  • Saturday 19th March (10-4)
  • Portraiture with David Severn
  • Monday 9th April (10-4)
  • Master class with Aaron Yeandle
  • Saturday 23rd April (10-4)
  • Photo~Canopy Workshop*
  • Saturday 7th May (10-4)
  • Photo-Canopy Workshop: Walking The River Trent with Marie Holliday
  • Saturday 28th May (10-4)
  • Photo~Canopy Workshop*
  • Saturday 8th June (6:30pm-8:30pm)
  • Photography Portfolio Review with David Severn
  • *Throughout our Photo~Canopy workshops, you will enjoy the full benefit of an experienced tutor, with a professional on hand at all times to offer friendly, practical and personal advice on subjects like exposure, image sharpness and composition. Whether you are a beginner or enthusiast, shoot digital or film, this photography workshop is designed to help develop your skills as a landscape photographer, whilst exploring spaces within the National Forest.


  • Saturday 20th February (10-4)
  • Photo-Canopy Workshop*
  • Thursday 14th April (9-12)
  • Natural Dye with Sue Cuttle
  • A hands-on workshop including a walk around our local green spaces to forage for colourful plants and flowers. Dye expert, Sue Cuttle, will take you through the steps to create your own beautifully dyed textiles, using only sourced natural materials.
  • Monday 18th April (10-4)
  • Watercolour with Rowena Barrett
  • This is a 4-hour workshop designed for those who have little or no experience but would love to know more and require encouragement and guidance. Rowena will, though a series of demonstrations and follow-me type exercises reveal some trade secrets and tips to help you initially grasp the basics of watercolour painting.
  • Tuesday 26th April (10-4)
  • Land Art with Mark Davies
  • Art that is made directly in the landscape, sculpting the land itself into earthworks or making structures in the landscape using natural materials such as rocks or twigs.
  • Friday 21st May (10-4)
  • Cyanotype Workshop
  • Join us for a hands-on workshop where you will learn how to sensitise paper and experiment with different coating techniques to make your own cyanotype prints. Cyanotype printing is a tradition photographic process that creates one off prints that have a blue pigment.
  • Saturday 28th May (10-4)
  • Photo~Canopy Workshop*
  • *Throughout our Photo~Canopy workshops, you will enjoy the full benefit of an experienced tutor, with a professional on hand at all times to offer friendly, practical and personal advice on subjects like exposure, image sharpness and composition. Whether you are a beginner or enthusiast, shoot digital or film, this photography workshop is designed to help develop your skills as a landscape photographer, whilst exploring spaces within the National Forest.

Open Call

Open Call

We are looking for submissions for Photo~Canopy 2016 that will open in October.

Submissions are welcome from artists, sculptors, photographers, graphic designers, musicians, performers and writers/story tellers. We are looking for a varied and experimental collection of works to be shown on the opening night along with a talk and performance based work. There will also be several workshops during the two-week duration of the show.

We are asking for works responding to the idea of 'What Once Was'.

The National Forest is an evolving landscape and stretches for over 200 square miles across parts of Leicestershire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire with a population of 200,000.

Burton & South Derbyshire College is located to the north of the Forest where mining and extraction previously scarred much of the land, although the landscape and communities are varied.

The long term 'Forest in the Making' regeneration and landscape project has trebled forest cover from 6% to 18% in the last 15 years. As an evolving place, it encompasses stories about the land, the textures of a changing landscape, the life and work of it's people, it's buildings and its economies. We'd like artists to use the idea of rebuilding 'what once was' as a guideline and is therefore completely open to interpretation.

The successful applicant will receive £500 and the work will be exhibited alongside the work of David Severn, Aaron Yeandle and Marie Holliday later this year. The work will also be added to Photo~Canopy's Archive programme.

Proposal Submission

All proposal submissions should be emailed to and should be accompanied by your name and title of the work being proposed. Proposals should be no more than 600 words.

Submission deadline has been extended to May 1st 2016.