Courses Overview >> Short courses >> Transcribing Landscape - Portraits and Tales

Transcribing Landscape - Portraits and Tales


Status message

This event has now passed
Course dates: 
Monday, 20 June, 2016 to Friday, 24 June, 2016
Garry Fabian Miller: Delphinium, Homeland, Summer 1990 (detail)

With Fiona Benson, Richard Povall and special guest artist - Garry Fabian Miller

Join us for this residential week as we explore our relationship with landscape; part of Schumacher College's Art and Ecology Programme.  Transcribing Landscape is convened by poet Fiona Benson and artist-researcher Richard Povall. Our special guest is the renowned photographic artist Garry Fabian Miller.

‘Garry Fabian Miller is one of the most progressive figures in fine art photography. Born in 1957, he has made exclusively 'camera-less' photographs since the mid 1980s. He works in the darkroom, shining light through coloured glass vessels and over cut-paper shapes to create forms that record directly onto photographic paper. These rudimentary methods recall the earliest days of photography, when the effects of light on sensitised paper seemed magical.’ - Martin Barnes (Curator of Photography at the V&A)

How do we mark the world around us, and how does it mark us? The narrative of landscape exposes how we feel about our planet, how we act in it, how we care for it, how it moves us. Deeper forms of connection to the non-human through word, act, and imagining help us find other forms of knowledge and ways of being in the world. Can we gain new understandings of the ecology of our planet and our world at a time when this seems perhaps more important than ever? Science and its knowledges are failing to move us, to jolt us into feeling the fragility of the planet in which we all live, despite the clarity of their evidences and the increasing baldness of their language.

Highlights of the week include an overnight meditative sit/sleep/listen by the River Dart with naturalist and sound artist Tony Whitehead. This is a very special opportunity, on midsummer’s night, to spend the night in stillness and silence by the beautiful River Dart. As noisy humans we are a usually seen as a threat to wild creatures, but when we become still, and quiet, their curiosity overcomes their very understandable fear, and they will come out for a visit and to investigate us in more detail. At this time of year it never really becomes completely dark, and light will begin to emerge again not long after 3am.

This is followed in the Wednesday by a day on Dartmoor with renowned photographic artist Garry Fabian Miller, who live in the heart of the moor and draws much inspiration from it. The afternoon will be spent at Garry’s studio, looking at some of his extraordinary new work and gaining a better understanding of how and why he works in the way he does.

Time with Richard and Fiona will allow plentiful time to experiment with your own creativity - whatever art form you happen to embrace, or whatever art form you would like to experiment with, even if that is for the first time.

The course links to a two-day symposium the following week (June 29-30) entitled ‘Language, Landscape and the Sublime’ which picks up on many of the themes you can explore in this short course. Participants of this short course will receive a £100 discount off of the Symposium fee when booked alongside this short course. If you would like to take advantage of the short course and symposium rate, please register below and email: to let us know.

Find more information about the Language, Landscape and the Sublime two-day symposium at

Fiona reads from her shortlisted collection 'Bright Travellers' at Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall.


Richard Povall

Richard Povall FRSA is a sound artist, researcher and educator and is on the faculty at Schumacher College. For many years he co-led Aune Head Arts, an organisation commissioning artists in communities in rural locations across the UK, and working with the natural world in a wide variety of creative ways. His own work with sound and installation has been shown internationally and he is best-known for his use of sound in interpreting and re-imagining landscape and place.

Fiona Benson

Fiona Benson is an Anglo‐Scottish writer currently living in Exeter with her partner and daughter. She was educated at Trinity College Oxford and then St Andrews University, where she completed the MLitt in Creative Writing and a PhD on Ophelia as a dramatic type in early modern drama. She received an Eric Gregory award in 2006 and was a participant in the Faber New Poets programme in 2009. Bright Travellers (Jonathan Cape) is her debut collection and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the coveted T.S Eliot Prize in 2015.

‘There are two types of poet – those who see spirits, and those who just drink them. As Sean O'Brien noted when reviewing her Faber New Poets pamphlet in these pages in 2009, Fiona Benson is a sober, contemplative sort. But as her first full collection Bright Travellers reveals, she is as much drawn to the metaphysical as to the mystical, treating the poem as a kind of secular prayer…When [she] crafts her poems out of blood and muscle, memory and music, they stay with you.’ The Guardian

Guest Artist

Garry Fabian Miller

‘The pictures I make are of something as yet unseen, which may only exist on the paper surface, or subsequently may be found in the world. I am seeking a state of mind which lifts the spirit, gives strength and a moment of clarity.’ Garry Fabian Miller

Garry Fabian Miller creates glowing abstract photographs by casting shadows, or blocking and filtering light on photographic paper in the darkroom. He walks on Dartmoor for inspiration, the location of his home and studio in south-west England.

He has a deserved reputation as one of the most progressive artists working with photography today. Much of Miller’s early work was landscape based. He gained international acclaim in the 1970s for his photographs of sky, land and sea, particularly for the series titled Sea Horizons of England that were first shown at the Arnolfini Gallery in 1979.

Since the mid-1980s, Miller has worked without a camera using the techniques of early nineteenth century photographic exploration to experiment with the nature and possibilities of light as both medium and subject. His earliest camera-less photographs look back to the pioneers of photography in the 1830s and 1840s, passing light through translucent objects, principally leaves, seedpods and flower heads, into an enlarger and using them as transparencies through which light passed on to light-sensitive paper.

Since 1992, Miller has explored a more abstract form of picture-making by passing light through coloured glass and liquid and cut paper forms. In sharp contrast to the norm of photographic exposures that last for a fragment of a second, Miller often uses long exposures lasting anywhere between one and twenty hours to create his unique and luminous images.

Miller is represented in numerous private and public collections worldwide. In October 2010, he was one of five artists in Shadow Catchers, a major survey of camera-less photography at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Until January 2016 new work is included in the Royal Academy’s exhibition ‘White’.

‘The mysterious beauty of Garry Fabian Miller’s images makes us crave a practical explanation. How are these works, that seem to emanate an inner luminescence, achieved? Essentially, these are photographs made without a camera. In his darkroom Fabian Miller works intently. He shines light through glass vessels filled with oil, water and other liquids, which give the works their colours. Sometimes he constructs simple cut paper forms and places these on wooden columns at varying distances from the light beam to cast shadows on the photographic paper. Exposures can last several minutes. The results are hand printed by the artist. This is not a process where more images can be produced from a negative: light is recorded as light, dark as dark. The special type of photographic paper used renders a lustrous, direct colour positive, making each image a unique creation. As such, there is an importance about the physicality of the photograph as object as much as image. The results are skilfully controlled lights events caught in time. The simplicity of the method does not diminish the allure of the final creation: rather it has a deep and satisfying physical and conceptual purity. On one level, these images can be absorbed for their visceral pleasures of sensing light and colour. To be understood further, Fabian Miller’s works can be positioned simultaneously in the development of abstract art and in a lineage of innovative minds – fascinated with the almost magical interaction of light on paper – that can be traced to the dawn of photography.’ From the essay by Martin Barnes, Curator, Photographs, Victoria and Albert Museum in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition Garry Fabian Miller, Blue Gold, 23 April-29 May 2004, Hamiltons, London.


£ 795.00
The programme will run from Monday to Friday afternoon and includes four nights accommodation and all vegetarian meals from the first lunchtime you arrive through until the lunchtime before your departure.