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In Darkness Visible, Verse I (2005-07)

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#2, 2007, C-type print
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“In reaction to media-led sensory anaesthetisation, and wearied by empty political rhetoric, my aim was to construct a forest built from accumulated memory and the ghosts of trees. Spending a period of two winters visiting public spaces in central London, this work inverts decorative Arcadian layout in an attempt to restore a sense of the natural in cultivated, somewhat synthetic city 'wilderness' space. 

"Through the production of my latest series, In Darkness Visible, in which I have selected the subject matter of trees and seascapes, has come a synthesis between reality and abstraction distilled through darkness. Contemplation is brought to bear upon mournful sensory visions of restored primordial beauty."

"The intention is to focus the observer’s attention on the essence of the image and to avoid distracting it with negative concerns. It is hoped that the delicate nature of my portrayal serves as a metaphor for the fragility of our relationship with the natural world."

Nicholas Hughes


Nicholas Hughes was born in Liverpool in 1963 and studied photography at the London College of Communication. From an early age, he was a passionate environmentalist. His understanding of how the natural world has suffered for the benefit of corporate profit led him into fundraising for an environmental advocacy group.

At the same time, Hughes grew increasingly aware of the fragility and preciousness of nature and began studying the landscapes around him. Inspired by thoughtful, socially conscious writers like Thoreau and Seamus Heaney, and deeply influenced by the effects of the Chernobyl disaster on nearby North Wales, Hughes dedicated himself to the task of addressing humanity’s increasingly problematic relationship with nature — while avoiding the pitfalls of polemical and topical documentation in a world already supersaturated with images of destruction and decay.

Hughes' work expresses both universal Romantic themes and a contemporary environmental sensibility. His concerns lie in the space between the world that people inhabit and the world that nature still claims as its own, as well as in a resurrection of the human sense of wonderment before nature. Martin Barnes, senior curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, observes that Hughes’ recent series Aspects of Cosmological Indifference combines the ethereal with the ecological, and the earthly with the epic. The vast distances between human and cosmos are collapsed, and in the inertness of space, light and color come alive, producing a series of celestial portraits in which the same sky shows a different face each time. “The images are desolate, almost bleak, but there seems to be a calm about them,” Sarah Nardi wrote of Hughes’ early series Edge. “They seem to reassure us that the existence of life or the lack thereof is inconsequential to the universe.”

Hughes’ theoretical concerns are borne out in his artistic process, which marries the analog to the digital as deftly as it does the physical to the atmospheric. Hughes’ meditations on the threat of ecological destruction simultaneously pay homage to a set of endangered photographic skills and resources. In each rich, vivid print, the light and color that animates the earth and sky seem diffused in the image itself.

Hughes' work has been shown in over sixty group and solo exhibitions worldwide, as well as at the world's major international art fairs in Paris, Los Angeles, and New York. His photographs can be found in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; the Gana Art Center, Seoul, South Korea; the Falmouth Art Gallery, Cornwall, England; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England, which selected his work to appear in a travelling exhibition in India in 2010. His work has been featured in numerous journals and magazines, including Next Level, Hotshoe International, The Photographer, and The British Journal of Photography, and was included in the Harvard University Press publication Photography and the Art of Chance in 2015. Hughes published his first limited-edition book, Aspects of Cosmological Indifference, in 2013, and is currently at work on a forthcoming monograph titled Nowhere Far.

Nicholas Hughes is based in the United Kingdom.

Selected Exhibitions

When frost was spectre-grey, The Photographers' Gallery, London, England

Wonder Current: Nicholas Hughes l Malcolm Opie, CANAL Gallery, London, England 

Ulsan International Photography Festival, South Korea

2010- 2011
Something That I'll Never Really See: Contemporary Photography from the Victoria & Albert Museum
Bhau Dhaji Lad Museum, Mumbai, India
Salur Jung Museum, Hyderabad, India
National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, India 
National Gallery of Modern Art, Bangalore, India

Collectors' Favorites, Duncan Miller Gallery in conjunction with the Photographic Arts Council of the LA County Museum, Los Angeles, CA

Histories of Photography: Outstanding photographs from the permanent collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England

Passages of Time – Light, Form and Reflection, Edge, Houston Fotofest, Houston, Texas

Landscape Views & Visions, 5th International Photo Festival, Gana Art Centre, Seoul, South Korea