Jem Southam was born in Bristol in 1950. He studied at the London College of Printing for a Higher Diploma in Creative Photography from 1969 to 1972. He is now Professor of Photography at the University of Plymouth.

Southam's subject is the rural landscape of the South West of England, where he lives and works. His photographs are characterised by the observation of cycles of decay and renewal within nature, returning to photograph a single location over the course of many months and years. He layers and juxtaposes these images to reveal subtle changes and developments in the landscape, recording nature's entropic instability. His large and detailed colour photographs, captured with a large-format camera, also often focus on mankind’s place in the environment, showing the impact of human settlement on the natural world. Conversely, these images also capture the psychological effect of environment on man, interrogating our cultural mythologies of natural formations and landscape.

Jem Southam has had solo exhibitions at venues including The Photographers' Gallery, London, 1987; Cenre d'Art Contemporain, Bruxelles, 1992; Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Australia, 1995; Tate St. Ives, Cornwall, England, 2004; Robert Mann Gallery, New York, 2004; Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, 2005; Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2005; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, 2005; and PhotoEspana, Real Jardín Botánico, Madrid, Spain, 2010.