Fay Godwin: Winthrop Reservoir

Hidden Treasures from the Camden Collection

Each month, Love Camden highlights an object from the Camden Art Collection that ties in with the cultural agenda across the borough of Camden. Featuring works by Barry Flanagan, Barbara Hepworth and Lancelot Ribeiro and many more, our Hidden Treasures series aims to provide insight into the history and legacy of some of the collection’s finest works. This month: Fay Godwin.

For someone who has never had to leave their home against their will it is hard to image the feelings that bubble up when you first set eyes on a strange shore. Now everything will have to start over again: that first chat to a new neighbour, your first day of school. Figuring out where to live and what to do from day to day, while you try not to think too much about the past. In light of this month's refugee week, Love Camden would like to profile this emotive work by Godwin to call attention to how we all find our homes.

Fay Godwin, born in Germany in 1931 to a British father and an American mother, made a career of picturing the British landscape as a new discovery. Originally a portrait photographer, she turned to landscapes as her main form of inspiration, engaging with the ecological crisis of the 70’s and 80’s. Her work calls up a utopian world, devoid of modernity and industrialisation. Although these are by some viewed as a denial of reality, they illustrate the hope for something better, something timeless and on-going.

“My way into photography was through family snaps in the mid-1960s. I had no formal training, but after the snaps came portraits, reportage, and finally, through my love of walking […]” Fay Godwin

Fay Godwin, Winthrop Resevoir, date unknown, © British Library

How can we relate to a land that is not our own? How do we start growing roots in a place that seems strange, where we don’t speak the language or know our way around?

In Winthrop Hill, Goodwin captures that timeless feeling of a first encounter; where everything is unknown yet promising at the same time and you are certain: this land has been waiting here for you. For a second it is you and the land alone, wrapped up in an intimate proposition.

And then you set that first foot ashore, you get off that plane, step off that platform. All of a sudden you have arrived. And the land will let you take your first steps, lets you leave your footprints in the sand and smell the air. Soon you will start walking, weaving networks as you meet new people, get a new job and try the new language. Soon the prints in the sand will interweave with those of others, and as the winds blows them together the land will whisper:

“Welcome home.”

Discover more articles in this series here.  

camden collection logo

The Camden Art Collection comprises a rich variety of works dating from the late 1950s to today, by artists who have had a strong connection to the borough, including Sandra Blow, Jean Cooke, John Bratby, Maggie Hambling, Derek Jarman, Prunella Clough, Terry Frost, Adrian Heath, Wilhemina Barns-Graham and limited edition works on paper by David Hockney and Patrick Caulfield. For more information visit our online archive.

Read more of our Hidden Treasure series by clicking below!