James Ravilious: Rural Life features over 30 photographic images, composed with the eye of an artist, capturing subtle qualities of light to reflect the rural life and landscapes of North Devon in the 1970’s and 80’s. Taken for the Beaford Archive, to which he contributed well over 70,000 images, his photographs reveal real life in the fields, farms, and villages, portraying the traditional countryside on the brink of change. What started as a short-term project grew into a seventeen year obsession, depicting all aspects of country life with his warm and sympathetic eye. The resulting historical span which he gave to the Archive makes it probably the most intensive record of any rural area in England.
Ravilious's pictures are the result of years of experimentation with pre-war Leica cameras and uncoated lenses, warmed by his affection and admiration for the people whose lives he recorded. His pictures reveal real life as it was being lived in late 20th century rural England when the country traditions that have been handed down for hundreds, if not thousands, of years were still part of everyday existence.
James Ravilious was born in Eastbourne, England, the second son of Eric Ravilious, the war artist, wood-engraver and designer. He studied art at St Martin's School of Art, London, and then taught painting and drawing in London for some years.
In the early 1970's he took up photography (self-taught), having seen its potential in the work of the great French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. In addition to his work for the Beaford Archive, Ravilious undertook many private commissions, such as the arts and environment body Common Ground's influential Save Our Orchards campaign, Somerset County Council's Mendip Project, and recording work for Devon County Council. He also photographed in France (especially in Normandy and the Cevennes), as well as in Italy, Greece and Ireland, and other parts of the British Isles.
His work is in numerous public collections and has been widely exhibited. Shortly before he died in 1999 he was given Honorary Membership of the Royal Photographic Society in recognition of his contribution to photography. He died of lymphoma in 1999.