John Davies was born in Sedgefield, Co Durham and studied at Trent Polytechnic in Nottingham. In 1992 he was made a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society. After graduating in 1974, he spent six years photographing the rural and isolated landscapes of the British Isles. In 1981, after winning a one year Photographic Fellowship at Sheffield Polytechnic, he became increasingly interested in trying to understand how the urban, rather than the rural, landscape evolved. Photographing the Northern English town of Sheffield, he began to document not only the topography of the city, but also its archaeology. In the following years, he focused on the role of the great 19th Century industries (cotton, steel, coal) played in shaping the physical environment of the north of England. In a manner not unlike the painter J M W Turner, who chose a steam train to represented 19th Century progress, the industrial structures Davies selected became functional symbols of social and capital growth. The exploration of the mutual relationship between social and industrial history was amongst Davies’ concerns, but it was never casually undertaken, rather always preceded by detailed research of the site and in his choice of high vantage points, which concentrate attention on the relationship between the sky and the earth, void and mass. Black and white, Davies’ sweeping panoramas echo the formal symmetry of Dutch 17th century landscape painting.

Documentary Dilemmas Aspects of British Documentary Photography 1983-1993, The British Council 1994