One or two people make their dreams come true in this life (I’m still working on mine) and with a lot of determination, a bit of luck and shrewd judgement, occasionally an opportunity drops into place. Well that seems to have happened for Finn Hopson, a photographer from the South of England I’ve followed for a long time now, who has his very own gallery and exhibition space in Brighton…

Finn secured this gallery space a little while ago now and I’ve been wanting to get down there for ages to see his wonderful work of the South Downs and Sussex coastline in print. He’s definitely set a benchmark for dedication to a local landscape, an approach I’m very much in favour of, though I’m incredibly jealous of where he gets to spend his time!

SOUTHBOUND copyThere is something about seeing printed and framed images that lifts and transforms them. As I’ve already said, I’m a massive fan of Finn’s work but seeing his photography on the web and getting up close and personal with a finely detailed print, a clean perfectly cut mount and the depth that glass brings is a different proposition entirely.

The gallery itself I’m sure is going to be a massive success. I love the space that Finn has, it’s actually pretty perfectly formed, there’s a freshness about the place which makes it incredibly inviting. The white walls and exposed chunky lighting rig make it a dream to exhibit photography in and critically there’s plenty of hanging space to show off Finn’s quite wonderful work. Delicious.

Finn has also adorned his space with low profile simple furniture, he’s clearly given it a lot of thought and ensured that the neat white cupboards and beech wood display stands don’t compete with the art on show, a great eye for detail.

Even better is the location itself. Situated right on the sea front, (and I mean on the beach!) with a view of the iconic decaying West Pier for company, Finn has bagged himself a hot piece of property. They are building something called the i360 next to him which, when complete in about 18 months time, will be a massive tourist attraction I’m sure. What better place to have a photography gallery than right next to an attraction that will boast 360 degree views of the local landscape for 20 miles or more in every direction? A winner.

Anyway, the reason why I finally got my act together and made the 300 mile round trip, was the announcement of his exhibition titled Southbound. In partnership with Valda Bailey, Terry Gibbins and David Baker, Finn has organised a fantastic collection of photography and an opportunity too good to miss. Each photographer brings their own unqiue eye and approach to photographing the landscape, visions which are very different to each other.

Brighton Gallery 6 copyOn entering the gallery, I was greeted with Finn’s beaming smile and Valda’s amazing abstract multiple exposure work.

I’ve already said further above how seeing photography printed and presented in all its glory is really the only way to view it. Never a truer word could be spoken than where Valda’s images are concerned. They really are completely captivating in their beautiful floating mounts.

This is art. Interestingly I’m not even sure that others would entirely see them or understand them as photography having seen them displayed in this way. It’s a departure from the normal fare for sure, and I mean all in a good way – I remember seeing Chris Friel’s work printed at the Masters Of Vision exhibition in Southwell and feeling exactly the same. Valda has kept her prints to a modest size and it works so well because while they have obvious global appeal as a collection, they equally demand close individual viewing attention at very close quarters, making it a very intimate and almost tactile experience. Excellent.

Brighton Gallery 1 copy

Moving into the gallery you get to enjoy Terry’s fantastic study of a single tree on the South Downs, and now very aptly exhibited close by. It’s a journey of four seasons and somehow Terry has managed to set up in what appears to be exactly the same spot again and again, charting the year and changing landscape as he goes. It takes commitment to do work like this, I’ve never found such an attractive subject to do this with, though I’ve often thought of trying to do something similar myself. What works so well of course is that the story is only really apparent when you see them together, the art of the project photographer, but individually they are equally sumptuous moments in time.

Brighton Gallery 4 copy-1On the other side of this compact space you’ll find David Baker’s powerful work. Again, so different from the other imagery on show, David’s photography is all about scale – frankly there’s probably no other way to view these sort of compositions, the bigger the better.

I already have Blue Rocks hanging on my studio wall at home where it serves as a constant reminder of mood, presence and relaying the feel of the sea as a force of nature. He does this so well, almost Turneresque in his approach, his photography, like Valda’s, is in many ways founded in visual art, escaping the ordinary world and delivering something closer to expression. On the opposite wall was hanging a huge print of March Trees a photograph which I believe David won the Your View Category with in Landscape Photographer Of The Year a couple of years back. All very commanding and a feast for the eyes.

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Last but by no means least of course comes Finn’s very own photography. It really is staggeringly beautiful stuff – it’s definitely the sort of work that of all of the photographers on show I suppose I subconsciously aim to be closest to. Finn shares my love of trees, a misty atmosphere and everything about trying to capture that essence of his local landscape, often at sunrise.

He’s extremely successful at delivering the beauty of his home county, they look incredibly cohesive together – I doubt the South Downs ever looked so good before. If I’d have had the finance I’d have backed up a truck and loaded the lot on board to take home but on this occasion had to make do with just the one and selected an A2 sized print of Fido Dido, a gorgeous single tree which happens to feature in Outdoor Photography this month.

All in all, I enjoyed a wonderful chat with Finn for a couple of hours, which simply flew by. The Southbound exhibition is on until 1st May and is a great opportunity to see all of these stunning photographs in one place, something of a rare bird for sure. If I was closer I’d definitely make the effort again, in the meantime I’ll have to make do with Finn’s inspiration on my wall instead.