Robin Friend – Bastard Countryside

Robin Friend Bastard Countryside [ EPF 2019 FINALIST ] “At the bottom of the hill where we used to live, a creek had been realigned to prevent it from flooding. Huge concrete banks on either …

“At the bottom of the hill where we used to live, a creek had been realigned to prevent it from flooding. Huge concrete banks on either side created a narrow canal that stretched as far as could see. With the creek on our right and the city behind us, we set off on our bikes – until eventually the sewers, motorways, backyards and industrial sites gave way to the flora and fauna of the Victorian bush.” (Me, aged 9). To this day, I’m still drawn to places where the natural and human worlds clash, interact and splat into each other. However, the innocent excitement I once felt for these sites has given way to unease. Made all over the UK, these pictures possess a magical sadness and inhabit what Victor Hugo described as “that kind of bastard countryside, somewhat ugly but bizarre, made up of two different natures…the end of the beaten track, the beginning of the passions, the end of the murmur of things divine, the beginning of the noise of humankind”. Hugo also described how observing a city’s edge “is to observe an amphibian”; thinking of the Paris periphery as a living, breathing creature pushing out and changing everything in its wake, blurring the city/countryside divide. Fast forward two hundred years and Hugo’s amphibian has grown tentacles on steroids and is not just devouring everything in its path, but shitting and puking incessantly as well.