A very long engagement

A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT 

PAUL HILL 

In the 1970s, Paul Hill chose to leave a successful career in photojournalism to concentrate on his own photography and to work in photographic education. Throughout this very long and eminent career there have been a number of great constants, one of which is the unshakeable belief that great photographs come from a close relationship with the subject material. Here we take a look at some of Paul's thoughts and opinions on the landscape.
Paul has been quoted as saying that the root of landscape photography lies in the land - the stuff under your feet. His interest is in what happens on and in the land - how the elements and seasons affect it, how man manipulates it, and how the flora and fauna mark it. He is mostly concerned with trying to understand what is around him in his non-urban environment, rather than making commercially acceptable 'views', something, he says, he did enough of when earning his living in publishing.
Fed up with trying to make photographs of the picturesque that confirmed an idea of pastoral bliss and romantic escapism, Paul explains that most of today's industrialised countries' population has moved away from the land and the constant contact with nature necessary to understand it. Instead, the countryside and the rural landscape have become commodities in a consumer society to be dipped into at a whim. He sees this artificial and transitory involvement being marked by the taking of photographs - the ultimate substitute for real contact. This, he continues, is compounded by the search for views or, as the photographic manufacturers call them, 'scenes' which have little to do with the land or nature, but a great deal to do with what the photographer has been 'brainwashed' into believing is 'good photography'. For Paul, the real passion, the real reward, is the diversity of topography that continuously enriches his life. Around every corner there is something different to see, something different to photograph - a lifelong series of interesting stories. The Peak District landscape is like a great novel or an enrapturing film - it sucks you in and takes you on the greatest journey, a rollercoaster of emotions and delights. Most of Paul's landscape work has been taken close to home throughout a long and close relationship, which, when you study his work and listen to his words, has surely now become one of the greatest of all marriages.   

'Contact with the land gives me a sense of perspective that helps me to retain my equilibrium when I think large sections of the world have gone insane.'  

'He is one of the most respected photographers and teachers in the country and has invented a new and affectionate way of showing us a landscape that has become modern in spite of itself' The Photographers' Gallery, London

 'Undoubtedly one of the most important landscape books of recent times' Journal of Photography about White Peak, Dark Peak.


A major influence on contemporary British photography, Paul was awarded a fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society in 1990 and an MBE for his services to the medium in 1994. He has exhibited regularly since 1970, and collections of his work are held at galleries and museums worldwide. Paul Hill is currently course Director of the MA Photography course at De Montfort University in Leicester, UK, and has continued to lecture and hold photography workshops in Europe and the US.