Ellie Davies spent much of her childhood playing in the New Forest in southern England, building camps and dams and tree houses with her twin sister.
“It is a very varied landscape; it was originally created by King William the Conqueror in 1079 for the pursuit of ‘beasts of the chase’ and later the huge oak trees were cut down to build ships to fight the Spanish Armada in the late 1500s.* This land was not replanted and much of it became a grazed heathland. However, large areas of the ancient forest still remain and it is a constant source of inspiration,” she said via email.
When she moved to London in her early 20s, she lost a bit of that connection to nature. Her series “Stars,” is an attempt to rebuild that relationship through art.
When Davies shoots in the forest she leaves her campervan in a parking lot and then heads into the wilderness on foot, carrying her kit—a Pentax 645Z or Nikon D3X, a tripod, a cable release, and a shutter remote—food for the day, and a flask of tea. She usually looks for areas of dense forest so that she can create a feeling of enclosure. The sky rarely makes an appearance in her images.
In “Stars,” she merged images of stars and galaxies from the Hubble Space Telescope with photos of landscape in the New Forest and Dorset’s Puddleton Forest. She starts by creating the photographs of the landscape, looking for compositions that could accommodate other shapes, and then looks for a suitable starscape to fill the space.
Davies started work on the series last year, and it’s an ongoing project.
“I hope viewers can place themselves in the forests and woods in my work, to imagine how that space would make them feel and to create a narrative of their own. In my experience people have quite varied responses and interpretations, and I find this a really interesting part of the work,” she said.
Davies’ work is on display in the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition 2015 in London until Aug. 16. It is also on display in the exhibition “Fraction of a Second” at the University of New Mexico Art Museum in Albuquerque until Aug. 8.
Correction, June 23, 2015: This post originally quoted Ellie Davies as saying that the New Forest was established as Henry VIII’s deer hunting ground. She misspoke. It was established by King William the Conqueror in 1079 for the pursuit of “beasts of the chase.” The post has been updated.