Chris Chapman was born in Wigan, Lancashire in 1952. He began his photographic career at the Newport College of Art in South Wales where he was invited to join the Documentary Photography Course run by the Magnum photographer, David Hurn.
In 1975 he moved to Dartmoor, since when he has documented aspects of Dartmoor life. His photographs reflect traditional skills inherent in the indigenous population and emphasise the accumulation of knowledge associated with age and customs. He has a large archive depicting the culture and character of the region.
His photography has been widely recognised and is represented in both public and private collections, including those of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, Arts Council England and the International Center of Photography in New York. His work has been published under various titles, including The Right Side of the Hedge (David & Charles), Dartmoor: The Threatened Wilderness (Channel 4), Wild Goose and Riddon. The Dartmoor Photographs of Chris Chapman (Halsgrove) and Silence at Ramscliffe, Foot and Mouth in Devon (Bardwell Press, Oxford).
A new book, celebrating his friendship with the late James Ravilious is planned for the autumn of 2022, marking 50 years since both James and Chris started their careers as documentary photographers in Devon. Chris Chapman took his first photographs on Dartmoor in 1972 whilst James began working for the Beaford Centre in North Devon.
A Photographic Friendship, James Ravilious and Chris Chapman (Skerryvore Productions), edited by Mark Haworth Booth and a with a foreword by Michael Morpurgo, will be released on October 1st 2022 by Skerryvore Productions.
In July 2000, Exeter Health Care Arts commissioned Chris to produce a body of work for the Tavy Elderly Day Care Ward at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. Following a theme of Positive Views of the Third Age the black and white images are portrayed with excerpts from interviews with his subjects. The project was completed in April 2001 and is on permanent display in the corridor to the Robin Ling Ward on Level 1, in the Princess Elizabeth Orthopaedic Centre
In April 2001 Beaford Arts commissioned Chris to make a photographic record of the effects of Foot and Mouth disease in North Devon. Concentrating on one contiguous farm, Silence at Ramscliffe documents everyday life on a farm through to the day of the cull. Two landscape photographs from this work, taken from roads in North Devon, were included in East of Eden, a large-scale exhibition exploring the theme of art, nature and society. (Some sixty artists were involved including John Virtue, Damien Hirst, Andy Goldsworthy, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Rebecca Early and Louise K Wilson. The exhibition Silence at Ramscliffe, was launched at Ramscliffe Farm, Beaford on the 9th of November 2002. The touring exhibition has visited a number of Westcountry venues, including the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, Somerset County Museum, Burton Arts Gallery, Falmouth Arts Centre and Exeter Cathedral.
For more information contact Beaford Arts: email@example.com
Chris Chapman is also working on a long-term project with Dr Tom Greeves and Dr Sue Andrew, documenting the medieval triple hare roof bosses that appear in many of Devon's churches and beyond. The Three Hares Project has been supported by Devon County Council, the Devonshire Association, Dartmoor National Park Authority, Videotel Productions, private individuals and the Classical Chinese Puzzle Foundation.
The first stage of the project was framed as an exhibition and first shown at the High Moorland Visitor Centre, Princetown in November 2001 and subsequently at Devon County Hall, Exeter in Spring 2002.
Details of the project can be accessed via: hares/page7.htm
In 2006/2007 Chris presented a six-part series, Secrets of the Cotswolds for Available Light in Bristol, which was broadcast on ITV West in the late summer of 2007. He also filmed for a programme on the subject of small schools in Devon for Teachers' TV, in collaboration with Kate King and produced by Available Light.
In the autumn of 2007, Chris Chapman and Kate King set up The Dartmoor Film Project to produce an independent film about Dartmoor. Two years in the making, this beautiful film tells the story of Dartmoor through the voices of its people, with contributions from the fields of geology, archaeology, farming, music and poetry.
2008 - new films: David Alford Playing the Bones, A Fair Deal for the Hills and Dartmoor Farmers.
In April 2008, Chris received an award from The Dartmoor Society for 'his outstanding documentary photography of people and place'.
2009 - Commissioned by Yorkshire Sculpture Park to make a film about the run up and installation of Peter Randall - Page's landmark exhibition. Peter Randall-Page at Yorkshire Sculpture Park was released by YSP on the 26th June 2009.
2009 - Wild River, Cold Stone - a film of Dartmoor by Chris Chapman and Kate King was launched in July. The making of the film was supported by the Dartmoor Sustainable Development Fund, Devon County Council, Devon Artsculture, Dartmoor National Park Authority, Duchy of Cornwall, Videotel and The Dartmoor Society. See FILM for further details.
2014 - How Many People See The Stars As I Do?' The Exmoor Story of Hope Bourne
'How many people see the stars as I do? Not many in this modern world, I think. We have bartered our heritage for too many other things. Our small lives are hemmed about with fetters of our own making and our souls caught in a web of our own weaving. Who shall set us free?' From 'Living on Exmoor' by Hope L Bourne
After its sell-out premiere at Simonsbath Festival in May 2014, Chris Chapmans film about legendary Exmoor writer and artist Hope Bourne was screened at the Porlock Arts Festival and Appledore Book Festival in September to a sell-out audience. It was also screened as part of a major exhibition of Chris Chapman's photographic work - in which Exmoor is widely featured - at White Moose Gallery, Barnstaple, Devon. November 8th 2014 - January 2nd 2015
Hope Bourne led a life of self-sufficiency in a tiny caravan in remote isolation in the ruins of a farm on Exmoor for 24 years. Hope fed herself by growing vegetables and hunting for food, so that she could live, she claimed, on less than £1 a week. She spent much of her time painting and sketching the moor, writing a column for the local paper, and combining this creativity in a remarkable series of books.
Chris Chapman first met Hope when he was working as presenter and photographer for the six-part HTV television series Secrets of the Moor in the 1990s. His admiration and affection for Hope provided the foundations for a friendship which lasted nearly 20 years until her death in 2010. Chris then embarked on a journey of discovery, uncovering his friend's extraordinary life-story in a 50-minute documentary.
"Like so many of her friends, I miss Hope and yet feel her presence on Exmoor wherever I go," says Chris. "As an artist and writer Hope had that rare ability to delve below the surface and reveal Exmoor as it truly is. Her celebration of Exmoor in her books, paintings and drawings is to be revered and I believe will endure."
Chris's sensitive and painstaking research has enabled him to see beneath the layers of mythology and misinformation that have shrouded Hope's life to date and shed new light on the story of an extraordinary woman who was both bold and courageous, and whose legacy on Exmoor is greatly revered.
"Hope was a fighter in all walks of life and I admired that in her and so was determined with this film to put her story straight," says Chris. "Making the film was difficult at times, but I'm pleased with the result and heartened by people's reaction to it. It brings to life the things that Hope stood for: conservation, farming, hunting, community, freedom and wilderness, but it's not my voice and direction that makes this film interesting, I'm simply the messenger. It's the voices of Hope and the people of Exmoor that shine through."
The DVD of 'How Many People See The Stars As I Do?' The Exmoor Story of Hope Bourne is available to buy at £10.00 (plus £2.00 p&p). See FILM for further details
2014. Commissioned with Dr Richard Wescott to produce book about Withypool on Exmoor.
Withypool - The Story of an Exmoor Village. Author Richard Westcott, a historian and medical doctor, reveals his lifelong love of Exmoor and brings scholarly insights, a deep sense of humanity and a humorous eye to the story of this ancient settlement. Withypool - The Story of an Exmoor Village is lavishly illustrated with newly commissioned colour photographs, and is accompanied by a village archive CD-ROM edited by Chris Chapman. It also features previously unpublished original material relating to the Lanacre manorial documents which date back to 1772. These documents, which have hardly seen the light of day, let alone been fully studied and annotated, give a fascinating insight into the comings and goings, payments and non-payments, doings and misdoings of village life in times past. As each chapter unfolds, the story of Withypool tells of the historical events which have shaped the landscape of Exmoor that we see today, a mixture of wild open moorland, steeply wooded combes, unpolluted rivers and the uninterrupted legacy of some 5,000 years of hill farming.
2015 Launch of the film: A Lady of the Moor – life beyond Sam’s Scrapyard
Sam Harris's scrapyard at Lettaford on Dartmoor has become something of a legend, and people have fond memories of Sam's cheerful smile and friendly demeanour. It was his daughter Peggy, long after leaving home, who decided to put pen to paper, telling of life on the scrapyard and resulting in the publication of two remarkable books. What is even more remarkable is that Peggy left school finding it difficult to read and write.
But what of Peggy's life today? A single mother who was determined to bring up her daughter Clare as a lady, Peggy Harris has a grip on life that one simply has to admire. Chris Chapman followed Peggy for a year with his film camera, gaining an insight into her hard yet noble life. In February 2015 Skerryvore sponsored a run up event for Chagword, Dartmoor's Literary Festival. The evening kicked off with three ladies reading their favourite passages from Peggy's two books, Life on a Dartmoor Scrapyard – The Early Years and Life on a Dartmoor Scrapyard, The Later Years, followed by the screening of the film and questions from the floor to Peggy. The evening was a sell-out - testimonials below.
Hi Chris - I just wanted to drop you an email so say how brilliant I thought your film about Peggy Harris was. You really captured what a resilient and strong woman she is, I feel honoured to have met her - she is amazing! Your film offered a real sense of her grounding in the countryside and it felt like your photos had come to life in the cinematography. You offered just the right amount of pathos and humour. KD, Moretonhampstead, Devon
Dear Chris, I just wanted to say how very much I enjoyed your film and hearing Peggy being so open and direct. You have a real gift for enabling your subjects to relax and trust, and it was a really moving evening. Thank you. SR, Gidleigh, Devon
Hello Chris, the village hall was packed wasn't it? And no wonder. Peggy is a good speaker, very natural and down to earth. You have captured this woman's life in such a way that leaves no doubt in my mind that you really know her...the authenticity of your work, sensitively observed reality, never wanes.
I love all the work you have produced, films, photos, books and the Peggy film is true to form...BRILLIANT. Thank you for keeping Dartmoor and its subjects alive for us.
MC, South Zeal, Devon
Launch in Chagford, Devon of the book, The Three Hares, A Curiosity Worth Regarding by Tom Greeves, Sue Andrew and Chris Chapman (Skerryvore Productions)
Three Hares share three ears, yet each beast has two, following each other in an eternal circle. This richly illustrated book tells the story of a 25-year quest, which began in Devon in South West England, to explore, across much of Eurasia, the origins, transmission, use and survival of this charming, enigmatic and sometimes geometrically precise motif.
From their earliest recorded presence in sixth-century Buddhist caves in China, to the Christian abbeys and churches of medieval western Europe, embracing the Islamic world and Judaism as well, the Three Hares are given sacred and special status in diverse cultures, including that of the Mongol Empire. Examples are given of work by artisans inspired by the Three Hares for more than 1400 years. Undoubtedly the motif is 'A Curiosity Worth Regarding'.
The 'three hares' motif is an ancient mystery for our time..... A warning against sin? Or a way to advertise good fortune? A fascinating book ranges from Devon to China in its search for the origin of an enigmatic image.
This book is a revelation. What begins as a personal quest of the three authors to discover more about a curious motif found in the medieval roofs of some modest Devon churches develops into an unexpected odyssey, sustained over decades, which takes them across continents and into many different cultures and faiths. Exploring beyond ever widening horizons as they pursue the extraordinarily diverse manifestations of this humble yet haunting image, their tale is rich in human encounter and cultural discovery, diligently researched, thoughtfully and engagingly told, and beautifully illustrated. And in the telling, their story becomes something more, an affirmation of our shared humanity, of things like the three hares' ears which bind us together.
Peter Beacham OBE
2018 – film launch on YouTube
High on Hembury Hill – the story of an ancient Devon hill fort
Curator and contributor, an exhibition on the Three Hares for White Moose Gallery, Barnstaple, Devon with artworks inspired by the ancient motif by Jackie Morris, Tamsin Abbott, Virginia Lee, Andrew Seaby, Jonathan Chiswell–Jones, Patrick Morrison, Ann Mari Hopkins, and Verity Newman.
2020 – film launch on YouTube
High on Hembury Hill – The Gabbro Bowl
Film launch on YouTube
Hinterland by Gladys Paulus – a film by Chris Chapman
On Friday 20th March 2020, Gladys Paulus’ exhibition Hinterland, opened at Green Hill Arts, Moretonhampstead on Dartmoor. Three years ago, Black Swan Arts showed the work in Gladys’ hometown of Frome, Somerset, attracting visitors from all over the country.
In this exhibition, Paulus’ personal exploration of war, colonial power, gender and race is revealed through a meticulous series of costumes she made following her father’s death, to contain and heal a legacy of familial and ancestral trauma. Then came Covid 19 and the Gallery had to close with the exhibits mothballed inside.
A few weeks into ‘Lockdown’, I was approached by Green Hill Arts with an invitation to make a film. Intrigued, I found myself alone with my camera spending time in the gallery where the exhibits took a strange hold of me, communicating in a way that just didn’t seem possible. I knew then that I had to play a part in sharing this story. The film is the result.
Exhibition with the late James Ravilious as part of the PhotoFrome Festival. at the Black Swan Arts Tower, Frome, June 21 – July 10.
The Dartmoor Photographs of Chris Chapman, Providence Methodist Chapel, Throwleigh, Dartmoor
With the support of a grant of £9,647 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the members of Providence Methodist Chapel, Throwleigh, have mounted a permanent exhibition of Chris Chapman’s photographs to be shown during a series of open Saturdays between June and October 2022. Details of opening times: https://thedartmoorphotographs.com/
Ian Crawford, the chapel’s project coordinator, said: "We are delighted to be opening our doors this summer to give everyone the chance to see Chris Chapman’s wonderful Dartmoor photographs. We look forward to welcoming local families and visitors from further afield, including walkers along the new Archangel Way."
The chapel’s heritage project is also being supported by the Methodist Church and Devon County Council. Cllr James McInnes, County Councillor for Hatherleigh and Chagford, said: "This is an important project. Chris Chapman captures the essence of Dartmoor and its residents. It’s a rare gift and this project will bring his pictures to a wider audience."
Alongside the exhibition, Providence Methodist Chapel will be hosting a series of talks and running a project to discover more about the families who have been connected with the chapel going back over eight generations to 1839. Anyone interested in helping with this project is welcome to contact Ian Crawford at: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Since The National Lottery began in 1994, National Lottery players have raised over £43 billion for projects and more than 635,000 grants have been awarded across the UK.