Close to Home: Rural Photographs from Norfolk and Suffolk by Justin Partyka

Osborne Samuel
Feb 6, 2017 11:45AM

"Close to Home brings together a selection of my photographs from six projects made in the East Anglian counties of Norfolk and Suffolk over ten years. They are the result of my obsession to come to know the region through endless time exploring the fields, farm tracks, backroads, woods, river valleys, and foot paths with my camera. As I photographed I tried to dig-deep and get back to the source of the ancient relationship between art, labour and earth. I think about the work of Vincent van Gogh and the letter he sent to his brother Theo in September 1881 in which he wrote: “Now I must draw diggers, sowers, men & women at the plough, without cease. Scrutinize & draw everything that is part of country life.” No one has understood how to see the fields and the their farmers better than Vincent. His commitment showed me the way." - Justin Partyka

Osborne Samuel are hosting an online exhibition of Close to Home with Artsy from 30th January - 24th February. Close to Home includes work from the series: 'Field Work', 'My Friend Eric (and Sons)', 'Summer Days in the Valley', 'Some Trees', 'Not Exactly Nature Writing' and 'Sky', covering ten years of Partyka's work. 

Click here to view the online exhibition

Field Work looks at the remnants of the old agrarian way of life in East Anglia. The photographs show a rural world that is unknown to many—a place where traditional methods and knowledge are still very much depended upon, and where the past continues to exist in the present. I have spent many hours in the fields while the farmers work, patiently watching  how man and the land intimately shape each other. 

Reed Cutting, Suffolk, 2004

                 Harvest, Suffolk, 2007

                 Farmhouse, Suffolk, 2006 

My Friend Eric (and Sons) emerged out of the Field Work series and tells the story of the Norfolk farm of Eric Wortley and his twin sons Peter and Stephen. I first met the Wortleys in 2003. Eric was 94 years of age and his days of working the land were coming to an end. He mostly tended the house while the sons ploughed, sowed and harvested the fields. They generously welcomed me into their world and I became their friend. I witnessed a profound rural authenticity in the Wortley family. Farming is the only way of life that they know. 

                 Eric Wortley by the Stove, Norfolk, 2005

                 Harvest with Combine, Norfolk, 2009

                 Stephen Wortley, Norfolk, 2010

Summer Days in the Valley comes from my exploration of the winding path of the river Stour. This is “Constable Country” the heart of English landscape art. But I set out to find my own way of seeing this bucolic river valley. The photographs largely reject the celebrated grand vistas and offer an alternative view of this landscape. They bring attention to the particular, the peculiar, and the poetic—the hidden places and scenes that are so often overlooked.

                 Stratford St. Mary, Suffolk, 2012

                 Stoke by Nayland, Suffolk, 2013


                 Thorington Street, Suffolk, 2013


Some Trees is a series of photographs that has its origins in my daily walks in the country. Even the most simple of trees can have a profound place in the landscape. The photographs reveal the subtle ways that the presence of a tree changes with the light and the passing of time.

                 Osier Willow, Norfolk, 2012 

                 Crack Willow, Suffolk, 2011

                 Oak and Fir, Suffolk, 2011

Not Exactly Nature Writing is a series of photographs made in the local landscape of the celebrated nature writer Roger Deakin (1943-2006) who lived at Walnut Tree Farm on the edge of Mellis common, Suffolk for almost forty years. The photographs begin at Walnut Tree Farm, where I visited in November 2006 shortly after the writer’s death. They offer a glimpse at the home that Deakin built and some of the objects from his daily life that were scattered around the garden and meadows. Six years later I began returning to Mellis, exploring the common and its surrounding fields and tracks, such as Cowpasture Lane. These photographs are a search to try and discover what had attracted Roger Deakin to this little patch of Suffolk. 

                 Citroën CX Safari and Cat, Walnut Tree Farm, Suffolk, 2006 

                 Table and Chair, Walnut Tree Farm, Suffolk, 2006


                 Table and Road, Mellis Common, Suffolk, 2014


Sky has nothing to do with previous skyscapes in photography and painting: the “Equivalents” of Alfred Stieglitz, William Eggleston’s At Zenith, or even John Constable’s cloud studies. Instead it’s about taking on Norfolk’s “big sky country” so completely that it rejects the dominance of the horizon—a feature that is so cliché in mainstream Norfolk photography. This is just one picture from the trilogy series Field, Wood, Sky. These photographs have been made over the past five years in a little corner of the county, where on a summer’s evening I’ve seen the most exquisite light. 

                 Skyscape #1, Norfolk, 2011


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Osborne Samuel