Field work: photographs from East Anglia by Justin Partyka

Justin Partyka photography21 January - 22 April 2012

A selection of the Field Work photographs will be on display around the main museum gallery until the end of summer 2012.



    This exhibition examines Justin Partyka's long-term experience of rural East Anglia, exploring the ability of his photographic work to test the boundaries between art and document.

For over ten years Partyka has been photographing throughout the East Anglian counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, exploring the rural worlds of rabbit catchers, reed cutters, and small-scale agrarian farmers. These are the forgotten people of the flatlands, whose identity stems from a close relationship with the landscape. This is a way of life that is deeply rooted in the past, where traditional methods and knowledge still form a vital part of everyday experience. In an age where industrial agriculture has come to dominate the countryside, Partyka's photographs challenge contemporary ideas of farming, documenting and depicting the lives of people who find themselves pushed increasingly to the margins.

At the same time, Partyka visualises and captures these rural contexts with a painterly eye. His work reveals a sensitive awareness of colour and of the unique qualities of East Anglian light - both of which are used expressively to examine this somewhat timeless, but fading way of life - following in the tradition of the great landscape artists. These photographs not only tell the stories of rural people and the landscapes they work, they also tell the story of Partyka's immersion in their worlds, of which he writes: "I have spent many hours in the fields, patiently watching how man and the land intimately shape each other. If I am looking closely, occasionally I am offered a glimpse into the mystery of this ancient relationship. It is a fleeting moment; I click the shutter; and I wait…."

Please click on the link to read Justin Partyka's biography (pdf)


Project Berkshire imageProject Berkshire

Through a grant from Arts Council England, MERL has also be able to commission Justin Partyka to photograph rural Berkshire, which will involve a 'pop-up' exhibition supported by 'jelly' as well as a number of public workshops.

For full details of this project and to find out how you can get involved, go to the Project Berkshire page





Related events programme

A 'mardle': in conversation with Justin Partyka

Justin Partyka and Jonathan P Watts

  • 24 January, 7-8 pm
  • Museum
  • £3
  • Book in advance 

This 'mardle' will see Justin Partyka in conversation with fellow Norfolk writer and artist, Jonathan P. Watts. They will examine Justin's inspiration and discuss his commitment to photographing rural East Anglia. Slides of his work will reveal how the medium of photography can become a way to explore a sense of place. 'Mardle' is a dialect word from Norfolk and Suffolk and means to have a gossip. After their initial conversation Justin and Jonathan will encourage the audience to join in and have a mardle with them.


Premiere of 'My friend Eric', a film by Justin Partyka

  • 7 March, 7.15pm

We are sorry to announce that this event has been cancelled. It is hoped that an alternative screening will take place on the same day. If this is the case, full details of the replacement feature will be advertised in due course. Please watch this space for further announcements.


Justin Partyka photographyScreening of 'Robinson in ruins' (2010), a film by Patrick Keiller

  • 14 March, 7.15pm
  • Cinema, Anthony Minghella Building, Department of Film, Theatre and Television, Whiteknights Campus
  • £4 (£3 concessions and RFT members)
  • Book in advance or buy tickets on the door

This film—more commentary than documentary—is the third piece in a thought-provoking and artistic trilogy made by Patrick Keiller. Narrated by Vanessa Redgrave, this challenging work invites us into the fictional world of the eponymous Robinson, juxtaposes urban and rural Oxfordshire, and offers a heady mix of nature, surrealism, economics, politics, and the environment. It will be screened in collaboration with Reading Film Theatre and with the Department of Film, Theatre, and Television, University of Reading.

For more information on Reading Film Theatre, visit the Reading Film Theatre website


Taffy ThomasSongs, stories and traditions folk series: Hilary James and Simon Mayor with special guest Taffy Thomas - Tales of land and sea

  • 20 March, 7.30pm
  • £15 (£12 concessions)
  • Book in advance

The first UK Laureate for Storytelling, Taffy Thomas, takes us to East Anglia for tall tales of tall ships and landlubbers. Currently artistic director of Tales in Trust, the Northern Centre for Storytelling, Taffy has also been awarded the MBE for services to storytelling and charity. With songs from Hilary James and additional music from mandolin and fiddle maestro Simon Mayor.

For more information, visit the folk series page



Family events and activities

February half term

See our holiday events page for details of 'All things optical', a week of events and activities inspired by the exhibition.

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