William Arnold                                                

Suburban Herbarium
Camera-less silver-gelatin prints (12x16")
Truro, England
2015 - ongoing 

The gallery on this page shows only a small sample a more exhaustive investigation. For more please see the Suburban Herbarium ︎

"I was indeed a stranger in a strange land, yet I was still under the protecting eye of that God who has condescended to call himself the stranger’s friend. At this moment, painful as my reflections were, the extraordinary beauty of a small moss in fructification irresistibly caught my eye. I mention this to show from what trifling circumstances the mind will sometimes draw consolation; for though the whole plant was not larger than the top of one of my fingers, I could not contemplate the delicate conformation of its roots, leaves, and capsula, without admiration."

- Mungo Park - Travels In The Interior Of Africa (1799) Left to perish, robbed by bandits of all but his trousers.

Bounded not by an ecologist’s quadrat but by the length of a regular lunch-break walk - an escape from a daily teaching job based on the outskirts of a small but rapidly expanding city - this work is an ‘edgelands’ homage to Victorian botany.

A reflection on contemporary notions of wilderness and the conservation problem of plant blindness, building the Suburban Herbarium represents both an attempt to regain personal agency against the often alienating backdrop of the 9-5 and a celebration of the natural history of these outskirt 'landscapes of disappointment' ... the building sites, road verge, business parks, wasteland and identikit housing, where were it not for the necessity of stable employment nearby one would never choose to spend time.

To produce the works in this series, the living specimens are collected, identified, then taken to the darkroom to be projected, enlarged and logged as pure form-study in silver-gelatin. While the process in many ways harkens back to Victorian life-sciences and the work of English botanist and pioneering photographer Anna Atkins, this method of projection, in effect using the specimen as lantern slide, reveals a razor-sharp, almost sculptural detail.

Recorded in this way the flora that we normally walk past in our hedgerows and kerb-sides, or eradicate as weeds, command our full attention. Isolated from their original environment and elevated to a more rarefied status, we are allowed to study the lines and systems of their veins; marvel at the delicacy of their stems and the arrangement of their petals.

Interview with Diva Harris at Caught By The River: Here