“There is heavy irony in the familiarity of Clive Landen’s birds and animals in Familiar British Wildlife. They don’t exist in a state of natural grace, in an untroubled habitat. Instead the hard shoulder and the gravel verge is the real site of their existence as we have come to know it. The subjects in Clive Landen’s photographs are ‘road-kills’. His tableaux reveal death; not just the literal death of the creatures themselves but the metaphoric death of the picturesque countryside vision of Britain: a death of the imagination. From the Nineteenth Century onwards, the countryside – and the animals that inhabit it – have played a cherished part in British culture. It is a Britain where wildlife is taken to exemplify the qualities of the natural, the unspoiled and the trouble-free. The realities of the late 20th century are somewhat different; culturally, politically and, more specifically, ecologically. Landen’s graphic photographs in Familiar British Wildlife address this radically altered environment with adroitness and clinical precision.”
We can all relate to these images – in most car journeys you are likely to see some form of animal road kill, a carcass just left on the side of a road, rotting, forgotten and dismissed. Landen has not ignored them. He has brought the fates of these animals to the attention of their killers – humans. We as a race have used and exploited the environment for our own selfish needs, referring to it as “progress”, and if our developments towards convenience happen to end the life of an animal it is referred to as an accident. For generations we have been interfering with eco-systems for our own selfish entertainment. When the grey squirrel was brought over from America to the UK in 1878 as a “novelty”, not much consideration was given to the consequences. Now, with the threat of extinction for our native red squirrels due to the existence of grey squirrels in their environment, culling of the greys is necessary to ensure the survival of the red for future generations to enjoy on British soil. Yet that is deemed as cruel, barbaric or inhumane. Why? Because its not an accident. Because its conservation that has a person in the limelight to blame. You can’t drive past this.
I want to educate people on the importance of conservation. It is not the greys fault they were brought over here and I am not encouraging or supporting any form of unnecessary harm to come to them; but something must be done to control grey squirrel numbers if we want the reds to survive. Whilst I will not approach my photography in the same way as Landen, the simplicity of his work and content has encouraged me to stick with my topic and carry it through. It is not an easy task changing public opinion, especially when animals are involved, but in this modern day we have the platforms to. I need to exploit those means of communication and technology and use my photography to make a real change in this society we call the United Kingdom.