Meet Nigel Green, the photographer for CHALKUP21


Nigel Green is based in Pett Level, East Sussex and has worked on two projects organised by DAD; Transmit/Transmettre in 2007/08 and in 2010, the Sea and Walk map of the North Downs Way, documenting examples of 20th and 21st-century architecture along the route. He will be working with CHALKUP21 to take pictures of the buildings and the trail markers that will be placed on the buildings, which are currently being designed by Charles Holland.

Much of Nigel’s work is focused on the ‘utopian’ aspects of modernism and post-war architectural reconstruction. In 2008 he completed a practice-based PhD at the University for the Creative Arts which looked at the relationship between photography and the representation of modernist architectural space.

He has exhibited and published photographic projects that document genres of modernist architecture in the UK and Europe. 

He also works in the collaborative art practice Photolanguage, which explores experimental approaches to the documentation of architecture, landscape and urban space. ‘East Sussex Modern’, which engaged with the architecture and infrastructural legacy of Sidney Little, the borough engineer for Hastings, was completed and exhibited in 2016.

We had a brief chat with Nigel to learn more about his approach to his work and his interest in working around the area of Dover.

When did you first work with Dover Arts Development?

Our first project was an exchange project with an installation at Deal castle. Some years later they commissioned me to produce a map. Based on my interest in the modernist architecture of the 20th century, the idea was to try and find buildings from that period along the North Down’s way – a different take on what people normally think about the route. You don’t necessarily think of concrete.

Have you always been interested in taking pictures of brutalist architecture?

I originally studied Fine Art, but then I started to incorporate photography in my art practice – creating installations, using colour elements and found elements. Photography was used as a means to reference things that I couldn’t reference any other way – more ephemeral, more transient elements. The architectural space itself was always a quite strong link to everything else I was interested in — everything came back to architecture and space in some way. So after a certain point, I became more and more interested in just the photographic architecture of spaces. Although I still have a collaborative practice called Photolanguage with another writer, we produce projects that are more fine art based – they do involve different modes of working — texts, writing and photography. They still have that, but my personal practice is still very much focussed on photography.

I often thought about how our last project could have been expanded, so it’s nice to be linked to a new part of it.

Why do you often use such a particular kind of lighting?

I guess it really comes back to that whole Dusseldorf school practice of using flat light for colourwork purely because you don’t have strong shadows, the contrast — it allows the colour to be more neutral and natural. When you work in sunlight you get the blue skies and there’s a dominant blueness. This calms everything down and the milkier it is the better. I have an affinity for this kind of light anyway. It’s lovely to have a sunny day, but I don’t usually take a camera with me if it’s a sunny day. If you’re working with black and white then it’s different as the contrast falls in a different way.

There’s something very beautiful and still about this kind of light.

What’s your favourite part of Dover?

I’ve always been fascinated by Dover. As a child, I have a memory of driving through the front of Dover and seeing Burlington house and the experience of this incredible space, and the experience of these spaces and buildings, that’s always stuck with me. I’ve photographed that space over a number of years; that area was always my favourite area. One particular memory was when I came here one summer and the house was derelict and there was a big car park there and a bit of a medieval ruin as well — and the petrol station – – and it seemed a fantastic unkempt space to have in the centre of town. There was a lady picking flowers there and it was just an amazing contrast between this brutalist block and the bucolic scene of somebody collecting flowers. And I thought ‘yeah, that’s what towns should be’, they should have those kinds of spaces. A degree of chaos, a kind of wasteland…everything shouldn’t be controlled.