Much of the work in Geraint Evans’ first photography exhibition was taken whilst he was confined to his local area by the dual challenges of cancer and COVID.
The exhibition is being staged to raise money for the Leeds Hospital Charity, the fundraising arm of the Leeds Cancer Centre. The work on sale has been priced to cover costs plus 35%, which goes to the charity, to aid research and provide specialist medical equipment.
Flux relates to Geraint’s own changing state during this difficult time, and the woodlands he visited. Often there would be one week between courses of treatments when he felt well enough to explore. His chance to connect with nature and forget his problems. He has photographed trees in all seasons and weather conditions.
When walking in the rain, passing walkers would comment to him on the poor weather. For Geraint, a downpour presented an opportunity. The rain would bring out the colour and details on leaves and branches. The sun of summer can wash out the landscape, making everything look green. This is an exhibition that celebrates the broad colour palette and rich texture of woodland.
Most of the photographs were taken using analogue films. Occasionally, Geraint uses digital but likes the discipline of choosing the ideal image and process before shooting. Using a light meter, choosing a shot, checking exposure: all take time and concentration. When battling cancer, it gave his mind a focus, an opportunity to forget about problems, concentrating on the immediate task and environment.
The photos have all been taken within half an hour drive of Geraint’s North Leeds home; the edges of Nidderdale and Wharfedale, where moorland meets valleys. Geraint has sought out hard-to-access patches of woodland, unmanicured sections left to nature, where ancient trees still find a niche.
My personal favourite is entitled The Crown (main image). An ancient tree reaches out and upwards, its remaining leaves still bright against the browning bracken at its feet. A background of purple seeps through the gaps between intricate branches. The emphasis on the regal tree allows the surrounding woodland to form a colourful backwash.
Geraint rarely uses filters when shooting. He has captured the mist and fog that sometimes envelop woods by focussing on a single tree trunk or branch, allowing the background to melt into the miasma.
For many years Geraint’s time outdoors was spent as a rock climber. He explained that this interaction led him to be able to identify every crack in a cliff but meant he neglected the wider picture. He has always had a camera but started to take photography seriously in 2014 when recovering from a climbing injury. As a child, he spent a lot of time roaming the woods behind his Berkshire home and he found himself drawn back to exploring woodland.
He now sees landscape in a more holistic way. These are in Geraint’s words ‘…intimate photos rather than grand vistas.’ He enjoys exploring detail, noting the impact of man on the environment when discovering depressions made by past quarrying. Wandering in woodland, you notice change and timeless features. A stand of old silver birch, which often have a short lifespan, is a photographic reminder that nature sometimes survives against the odds and that our tenure in this world may be much shorter than that of a tree.
In May 2021, Geraint gained a Royal Photographic Society Associate Fellowship, just before his cancer diagnosis. He was initially diagnosed with stage four cancer in his throat, tonsil and hip. It is a tribute to his tenacity and the committed support from his partner, Naomi, that he has now been free of cancer for over a year. No doubt his woodland walks and connection to nature aided his recovery.
I visited a few days after the exhibition was mounted and it was already proving popular. Patients and relatives were stopping to appreciate the views on their way to appointments and visits. During my time in the Atrium, an order was placed with gallery manager Paul Stones for two mounted photos. With prices ranging from £20 for a small, unmounted print, to £125 for a large, framed print, these could make great Christmas presents.
Geraint has continued to develop his skill and enjoyment of photography since his recovery. He is now venturing to higher ground, taking a pinhole camera to capture the rugged beauty of Yorkshire moorland. Time will again feature as a theme in his photography, and he hopes to produce a photo book with his new material.
The exhibition runs until the end of January 2024
Atrium Gallery Bexley Wing
St James’s University Hospital, Beckett Street, LS9 7TF
All original photography by Geraint Evans.