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Nick Meek • Unreliable Memories – Part 1: American Landscapes

Growing up in the North of England, the short summers and slate-grey winter skies inspired Nick Meek to create imagery exploring the possibilities of light and colour. Nick has subsequently carved out a photographic career that has seen him travel the world. With a clear vision of the world that he looks to define throughout his practice, Nick is drawn to a vibrant colour palette, spacious compositions and a real expertise with light, the antithesis of the landscape of his upbringing.

Alongside his ability to manipulate and play with colour, Nick constantly demonstrates his ability to wield light and use the conditions of his landscapes to his advantage. With experience in studying his surroundings on his side, as well as expertly paying attention to the detail in which the weather changes and adapts, Nick creates a relationship between the natural works and the observer that translates into playful yet powerful imagery. It’s this essence that is at the heart of his work and underlines his photographic identity.

“When it comes to remembering, common sense dictates that a memory somewhat behaves as a thing, an object that remains identical to itself no matter the time we keep it in the back of our heads.This exhibition draws on landscape photographs made of things seen in movies, private moments, minimal traces of trips and a certain architecture of fun. The works are a way of seeing what American culture has forced into familiarity to a huge chunk of the world. Nick Meek photographs an inner territory, a sort of intimate monumentality that we can only access through the camera.
This work of reimagination has to do with a sort of analogic use of color and desaturation, with the familiar strangeness of the scenes and, particularly, with their timeless quality. Because of this, Meek’s images achieve a dialectic character, a tension between what is real and what is not, what belongs to the present and what belongs to the past. In Meek’s world landscape is already a code, a system of signs built by decades of great landscape photography, from Ansel Adams’ monumentality to Joel Sternfeld’s pictorialism or the biographical notation of Stephen Shore. Since there is no point in trying to emulate what’s already done masterfully, Meek’s approach to landscape is explicitly postmodern, filled with subtle ironies.
Meek resists the abrasive monumentality of this landscape in an array of ways, from the use of irony to the erasure of detail by overexposure. His images pay special attention to the many ways humans interact with nature, the tunnels we carve, the places we choose to contemplate in a somewhat aesthetic manner. But maybe the biggest dare Meek throws to a classic approach to landscape is to photograph what he couldn’t possibly have photographed, like the impact of a nuclear bomb in the White Sands desert for example. Once again, this particular image shakes the reader, because it forces them to question the nature of the photograph and the place of the photographer.
Neither Nick nor I have ever been in a field test for a nuclear device— but the effects of the Cold War and the political, economic and cultural products of a paranoid Zeitgeist have been such a powerful influence that no longer belong only to the United States, or to the sixties. They are part of this subterranean current that has permeated all of us. Hence, photographing the flows, the fountains and the bursts of this current is crucial in Meek’s work. This is the path followed in this work: not the aspiration to achieve Ulysses’ gaze -clean, untouched-, but a more interventionist one. His treatment of the materiality of the photography, the erosion on an old picture, the work of oxidation and sunlight, reminds us that there is nothing natural in an image, suggesting that maybe there is nothing natural in a memory either”. 

– Borja Bagunya

Nick’s personal photography projects have earned him awards both nationally and internationally, and work for commercial clients have earned awards from D&AD, Cannes Lions and Communication Arts. His recently released publication, ‘Unreliable Memories’ was shown at this year’s UNSEEN Photo Festival and was selected as one of the best Photo Books of 2022 at Photo Espana.

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