[Images courtesy of Robin Styles]
The Headrow, Leeds City Centre, 12 March – 7 May 2015
‘Britain From The Air’ is an exhibition of grand landscape photography that has recently sprung up on the Headrow in Leeds City Centre. The project was conceived by the Royal Geographical Society as a travelling exhibition designed to reconnect people with the landscapes all around them. The aerial perspective of the photographs presents a slightly idealised version of Britain; showcasing natural wonders and introducing an element of geometric beauty to scenes of motorways and spaghetti junctions that is quite apart from the felt reality of traffic jams and endless billboards. In all honesty the exhibition does feel like it is partially designed to boost UK tourism and there is even an extra-large map for visitors to walk on, locate exactly where Broadbench is, and to plan the route of their next holiday.
Nevertheless, this ulterior motive takes nothing away from the spectacle of the landscapes. There are glossy shots of Buckingham Palace and the royal parks, the angel of the north, fields filled with crop circles, secret coves, and even the cityscape of Leeds itself. They present a diverse and colourful catalogue of British scenes, and some even remind the viewer of the fragility of a natural world beset by flooding and environmental change. There are scenes of factories and mines, of production and the waste left in its wake. It is as much an exhibition about the history of Britain’s culture and industry as it is a celebration of landscape in itself.
The aerial shot that isn’t there, the one of the exhibition itself, would show people gathered in clusters on the concrete, reading, eating their lunch, or inspecting the large triangular installations that have appeared on the Headrow. People stepping out of their city for a moment to think about landscapes more or less picturesque than their own, to daydream about their next holiday, or just to spend a few minutes in a landscape where time is still, and the weather is always fine.
Robin Alexander Styles
‘Britain From The Air’ will be on show in Leeds City Centre until 7th May 2015
Find out more about the exhibition and the work of the Royal Geographical Society here