Caught by the River

The East Anglians

24th September 2009


A major new exhibition of photographs by Justin Partyka, which explore an agrarian way of life, opens at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia (UEA), Norwich, on Tuesday 29 September and runs until Sunday 13 December. The East Anglians exhibition features a body of work by Justin Partyka which has resulted from a personal project by the artist, exploring rural life in his home region. The exhibition reveals one of the last vestiges of East Anglia’s deep-rooted agrarian community and provides opportunity to reflect on this in a global context.

“It is under the melancholy monochrome light of a still winter’s day that the agrarian landscape of East Anglia best reveals it timelessness. This is when I prefer to walk the small fields of the farms: crunching across unploughed stubble, or sidestepping my way through a crop of leeks or Brussels sprouts. As if I was entering a secret door, I push myself backwards through the boundary hedgerow of ash, willow, and hawthorn. Emerging out on the other side, I find myself standing on the remains of an old drove that at one time accessed an isolated farmstead now long since vanished. In the distance, wind breaks of poplar and oak stand like skeletal ghosts—their silhouettes serving as reminders of the past men and women who once laboured these soils” – Justin Partyka.

Justin Partyka began photographing in rural East Anglia in 2001. His project has taken him across the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire where he has discovered a largely forgotten rural world.

“My work tells the story of what I see as the last of East Anglia’s agrarian community. It is a place where traditional methods and knowledge are still very much depended upon, and the identity of the people is intimately shaped by the rural landscape upon which they live and work. Stoical small-time farmers, reed cutters and rabbit catchers: these are the East Anglians – the forgotten people of the flatlands who continue to work the land simply because the need to is in their blood” – Justin Partyka.

The East Anglians comprises 58 colour photographs. They feature people harvesting and working the land using traditional methods, farmhouses and farms where time appears to have stood still, and other skilled rural workers such as reed cutters and rabbit catchers. Other images such as those of farm sales, abandoned buildings and deteriorating machinery together tell a familiar story of rural decline.

Justin Partyka website