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Nicholas Hughes was born in Liverpool in 1963 and studied photography at the London College of Communication. From an early age, he was a passionate environmentalist. His understanding of how the natural world has suffered for the benefit of corporate profit led him into fundraising for an environmental advocacy group.
At the same time, Hughes grew increasingly aware of the fragility and preciousness of nature and began studying the landscapes around him. Inspired by thoughtful, socially conscious writers like Thoreau and Seamus Heaney, and deeply influenced by the effects of the Chernobyl disaster on nearby North Wales, Hughes dedicated himself to the task of addressing humanity’s increasingly problematic relationship with nature — while avoiding the pitfalls of polemical and topical documentation in a world already supersaturated with images of destruction and decay.
Hughes' work expresses both universal Romantic themes and a contemporary environmental sensibility. His concerns lie in the space between the world that people inhabit and the world that nature still claims as its own, as well as in a resurrection of the human sense of wonderment before nature. Martin Barnes, senior curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, observes that Hughes’ recent series “Aspects of Cosmological Indifference” combines the ethereal with the ecological, and the earthly with the epic. The vast distances between human and cosmos are collapsed, and in the inertness of space, light and colour come alive, producing a series of celestial portraits in which the same sky shows a different face each time. “The images are desolate, almost bleak, but there seems to be a calm about them,” Sarah Nardi wrote of Hughes’ early series “Edge.” “They seem to reassure us that the existence of life or the lack thereof is inconsequential to the universe.”
Hughes’ theoretical concerns are borne out in his artistic process, which marries the analog to the digital as deftly as it does the physical to the atmospheric. Hughes’ meditations on the threat of ecological destruction simultaneously pay homage to a set of endangered photographic skills and resources. In each rich, vivid print, the light and color that animates the earth and sky seem diffused in the image itself.
Hughes' work has been shown in over seventy group and solo exhibitions worldwide, as well as at the world's major international art fairs in Paris, London, Los Angeles, and New York. His photographs can be found in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; the Gana Art Center, Seoul, South Korea; the Falmouth Art Gallery, Cornwall, England; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England, which selected his work to appear in a travelling exhibition in India in 2010. His work has been featured in numerous journals and magazines, including Exit Imagen y Cultura -Paisajes Silenciosos, Next Level, Hotshoe International, The Photographer, and the British Journal of Photography, and was included in the Harvard University Press publication Photography and the Art of Chance in 2015, the 2018 publication Metamodernism. Historicity, Affect and Depth after Postmodernism, and most recently as part of Into The Woods: Trees in Photography, By Martin Barnes (V&A) Thames and Hudson, 2019.
Hughes published his first limited-edition book, Aspects of Cosmological Indifference, in 2013, and his first major monograph entitled Nowhere Far was published by GOST (London) in December 2017 and is to be found in the book collections of the Tate Gallery and the National Art library at the Victoria and Albert Museum (London).
Follow Nicholas Hughes on instagram @nicholashughes1.