Geoffrey James - Author- photo via

Geoffrey James

United Kingdom 1942


Geoffrey James
Geoffrey James
United Kingdom
March 15, 2016

Photography is a very important document of our understanding of the changing world around us. With a sense of history and consciousness about modern society, Geoffrey James is a self-taught photographer whose work is a witness of his engaged mind and bright eye. For over 40 years he is using photography to investigate Western society through landscapes. James is very dedicated to his work and he carefully plans everything, creating the frames for the images. Every piece is a project, special subject of his investigation. With his old panoramic camera, James creates poetry and the irony at the same time.

Geoffrey James - Pont-Neuf, Paris (detail), 2000, photo via
Geoffrey James – Pont-Neuf, Paris (detail), 2000, photo via

From History to Photography

James has graduated with a degree in modern history at Wellington College, Berkshire, and at Wadham College, Oxford in 1964, and two years later he moved to Montreal, Canada, where he got the position of the associate editor of Time magazine. In that time, he was getting interested in photography. His first images, gardens and sylvan parks, express classical beauty revealing the geometry of those areas. From the Europe’s most famous gardens in Italy to the landscapes in Brittan, France and The United States, these landscapes are the witnesses of past and present times. In the 90’s his focus was on the less optimistic themes, such as brutality of the 14 miles long fence on US/Mexico border in southern California in a series Running Fence, or asbestos mining in Quebec, the largest one on the Western hemisphere. When he was actively investigated urban environment, Paris was a total coincidence. James was avoiding this city as a subject, but he took several images, which was enough to change his mind.

James’ photographs are the mostly devoid of human figures

Geoffrey James -Approaching storm west lethbridge, 2011, photo via
Geoffrey James -Approaching storm west lethbridge, 2011, photo via

An Absence of Human Figure

Trees are the special objects of his interest and he was making images of trees throughout his career. They appear in landscapes as well as in urban environments. Although profoundly interested in humanity, his photographs are the mostly devoid of human figures. But the human present is indirect and deeply involved in every scene, interacting with its surrounding.

Geoffrey James - Partial view of the US-Mexico border, 1997, photo via
Geoffrey James – Partial view of the US-Mexico border, 1997, photo via

Society Creates Landscapes

James favorite visual themes are parks, bridges, trees and ponds, roads and pathways, the facades of houses and city streets. He started with an interest in utopian, but over the time, his focus shifted to effects which global society has on the urban and rural landscape. Geoffrey James is the recipient of, the Roloff Beny Foundation Photography Book Award, the Victor Lynch-Staunton Prize of the Canada Council and the prize of the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation. He is a Fellow of the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Chicago, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, New York. He is also is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy. The big retrospective of his work, Utopia/Dystopia: The Photographs of Geoffrey James was held in The National Gallery of Canada in 2008.

Geoffrey James is represented by Stephen Bulger Gallery.

Geoffrey James lives and works in Toronto, Canada.

Featured image: photo credit
All images used for illustrative purpose only

YearExhibition TitleMuseum/GallerySolo/Group
2018Land UseStephen Bulger Gallery, TorontoGroup
2017Frontera: Views of the U.S.-Mexico BorderNational Gallery of Canada, OttawaGroup
2017Canadian PhotographsStephen Bulger Gallery, TorontoGroup
2016Counterpoints: Photography Through the Lens of Toronto CollectionsUniversity of Toronto, Art Centre, TorontoGroup
2016California and the WestSan Francisco Museum of Modern Art
2015Residuethe Persistence of the Real, Vancouvcr Art Gallery
2015The Redemption of the RiverThe Slought Foundation, Phildelphia
2014InsideAgnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s U, Kingston*, travelling to the Glenbow Museum Calgary
2014PunctumSalzburger Kunstverein, Salzurg
2013More than two, let it make itselfThe Power Plant, Toronto
2013Auto-MotiveThe World from the Windshield, Oakville Galleries, Oakville
2012Photography in MexicoSan Francisco Museum of Modern Art
2011The Nanton ProjectUniversity of Lethbridge
2011Imperfect HealthThe Medicalization of Architecture, Canadian Centre for Architecture
2009Into the Sunset: Photography’s Image of the American West. MOMANew York
2008Utopia/DystopiaNational Gallery of Canada (NGC), (S) OttawaSolo
2008The Tree: From the Sublime to the SocialVancouver Art Gallery
2008Field NotesKitchener-Waterloo Art GallerySolo
2008Transformation AGOArt Gallery of OntarioGroup
2008Is There a There There?Oakville Galleries and Museum LondonGroup
2008The Wide OpenMissoula Art Museum, MontanaGroup
2007Le musée côté jardinMusée d’art et d’histoire, Saint-Brieuc, France
2006Landscape: Recent AcquisitionsMuseum Of Modern Art, New YorkGroup
2005Contemporary Photography and the Garden: Deceits and Fantasies.American Federation of Art
2004Geoffrey James: Zones of ContactThe Americas Society, New York
2004Temporal SurfacesVancouver Art Gallery
2003Geoffrey James: Past, Present, FutureUniversity of Toronto Art CentreSolo
2003The Edge of TownEric Arthur Gallery, University of Toronto, Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, Toronto
2003Confluence: Contemporary Canadian PhotographyCanadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, OttawaGroup
2003Spread in Prato 2Dryphoto arte contemporanea, Prato, ItalyGroup
2003What Dreams are made ofGoethe Institute, TorontoGroup
2001Substitute CityThe Power Plant, TorontoGroup
2000ParisCanadian Cultural Centre, ParisSolo
2000Identificazione di un PaesaggioCommune di VeneziaGroup
1999The Lethbridge ProjectSouthern Alberta Art GallerySolo
1999Paradise RevisitedAlbright Center for the Arts, Reading, PaGroup
1998Running FenceSan Diego Museum of Contemporary Art. San DiegoSolo
1998Land MarksNational Gallery of CanadaGroup
1998Mysterious Voyages, Exploring the Subject of PhotographyBaltimore Contemporary Museu, Baltimore, MDGroup
1997Landscapes in Democracy: Frederick Law Olmsted. Musée de l’ElyséeLausanne, Switzerland
1996Viewing OlmstedCanadian Centre for ArchitectureGroup
1996The Edge of TownUniversity of Hartford, HartfordGroup
1996Crossing the Frontier, Photographing the American West 1840 to the PresentSan Francisco Museum of Modern ArtGroup
1996Prospect 96Photography in Contemporary Art, Triennial, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt
1996Instants PhotographiquesCouvent des Cordeliers, ParisGroup
1995Silent WitnessesUnited Nations, Geneva, SwitzerlandGroup
1994AsbestosThe Power Plant, TorontoSolo
1994Neapolis MetropolisPalazzo Reale, NaplesGroup
1993Observing Traditions: Contemporary PhotographyNational Gallery of CanadaGroup
1992Documenta 1XKassel, GermanyGroup
1986Landscape with RuinsRoyal Institute of British Architects, LondonSolo
1985I Giardini ItalianiPalazzo Braschi, Museum of RomeSolo