Melanie Friend unveils her new book The Plain, published by Dewi Lewis, in conversation with Pippa Oldfield, Head of Programme at Impression Gallery and co-editor of the book. Part of BITESIZE BOOKFAIR, a programme of short talks on Instagram as part of our Online Photobook Fair 17 October 2020.

The chalk grasslands of Salisbury Plain have been used since 1897 as a preparation ground for war. The heart of this ancient English landscape is an eerie and ambiguous space. The plain is both the UK’s largest military training ground and also a conservation area shared with archaeologists and dogwalkers, larks and corn buntings, wildflowers and rare forms of wildlife.

Melanie Friend’s photographs reveal the military presence as a disquieting feature on the horizon: a rusty tank positioned as a target, a red box used for field telephones in a copse, smoke from an exploding shell. In the inaccessible ‘Impact Area’, a cluster of distant soldiers undertake firing exercises. Red flags warn the visitor to keep out; signage to the military remind them not to drive tanks over Neolithic barrows. Occasionally, Friend has closer encounters with an artillery gun or an armoured vehicle, but often the landscape holds sway; manoeuvres are heard, but not always seen.

Riven with contradictions and curiosities, The Plain continues Friend’s investigation of everyday militarisation, revealing how war is embedded in this most English of landscapes.

“This important new work confirms Melanie Friend as one of the leading landscape photographers working in this country today. The Plain holds in perfect tension the light and dark sides of the British landscape, and deepens Friend’s engagement with landscape as a complex meeting ground of nature and state.”

Kate Bush, Senior Photography Curator, Tate Britain.

£30.00 hardback, buy the book on our website here

18 minutes 21 seconds: Produced by Impressions Gallery 2020