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Saddleworth: Responding to a Landscape

“Murray captures the moors changing moods under glowering skies, often creating twilight or nocturnal impressions… We seem to be in a dream world as much as a real place, a staged and highly charged landscape of memory and the imagination.” 

Martin Barnes
Senior Curator of Photographs
The Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Saddleworth is the result of a five-year creative journey by Matthew Murray, fuelled by his desire to build an extraordinary and entirely new body of work. This venture into landscape photography became an exploration, a personal study, almost becoming therapeutic to Murray, as he traversed his own private life changes. 

 What evolved and then became paramount to Murray’s exploration of these ever-changing scenes, was how photography translated the landscape. Here his manipulation of natural and artificial light challenged the representation of the traditional landscape through both photography and painting.

The result is a photographic odyssey, which captures not only the astonishing and beguiling beauty of this moorland landscape, but also the dramatic ephemeral changes caused by the season, or simply the hour that each image was taken.

“I wanted to produce a series of landscape photographs that I believed to be beautiful in their own right and by doing so hopefully challenge preconceived ideas about the moor.  Documenting the moors landscape as picturesque and beautiful, concentrating on light composition and nature reveals a true appreciation of the beauty of the moors, from wonderful long summer days to snow storms in the depth of winter.  This is what Saddleworth says to me. Every trip I have taken to the Moors over the last five years has encapsulated each season, weather and cloud pattern, rain, sunshine, snow and the sense of the bitter cold of that emotive landscape.”

 “I quickly saw how amazing the landscape is and how the shadows and cloud formations can change quickly and drastically.  It was only after viewing the very early contacts from my initial shoots that the photographs reminded me of the 17th century Dutch painter Jacob Van Ruisdael, whose work I had seen at the Royal Academy of Arts, London in 2006.   Having never photographed a series of landscapes before this series, it was a massive departure from my normal portraiture and street photography work, the work developed overtime and was very organic. Shooting these landscapes it was clear that I was inspired by Ruisdael’s work.”

Matthew Murray is a British photographic artist based in Birmingham, who develops personal projects for exhibition and publication; alongside his commercial work which he produces for high-end advertising campaigns and editorials.   

His ‘Saddleworth: Responding to a Landscape’ book published by Gallery Vassie Editions, which accompanies this exhibition is Murray’s 3rd solo publication. Murray has been the recipient of many photography awards and his work has been exhibited internationally including: Amsterdam, NL; Lianzhou, China; Arles, France and throughout the UK.

Quotes above taken from an interview with Matthew Murray 2017