Exhibition: 'On the Land an Oak Will Grow' at SM&AG
28 Apr 2023

Shrewsbury is viewed through a fantasy lens in a new photography exhibition by Vanessa Fairfax-Woods and Henry Woide. The exhibition is a series of photographs called 'On The Land an Oak Will Grow' - at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery until June 30th. 

A new exhibition featuring woodlands of Shrewsbury and wider Shropshire, inspired by myths and legends, is now on show at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery. 

picture of oak tree with pink smoke around it'Oak (Pretty in Pink)'

This series, by Shrewsbury-born Vanessa Fairfax-Woods and her collaborative partner Henry Woide, is based on ancient English folklore, has won internationally-acclaimed competitions, including the prestigious Lifeframer Series Award. It also reached the finals of The Sony World Photo Awards, and work by the pair has also been exhibited at Somerset House, London. 

The merging of the artists' very different photography backgrounds inspired the theme of the exhibition. Myth and Folklore allowed them to embrace Henry’s Landscape and Architecture photography background using nature while showcasing it in a conceptual and fantastical way. Their aim was to create 'something that didn’t exist but still felt familiar', Vanessa explains.

They achieved this familiarity through taking some of these photographs of their own magical worlds in the local area, including Shrewsbury where Vanessa was born. Other Shropshire locations included Candy Woods and Haughmond Hill. 

Image of man with sticks on his head and holding sticks.'Father Figure'

The title 'On the Land an Oak Will Grow' comes from one of Vanessa's grandfather's poems (John Fairfax). Her dad carved it into a coffee table he had made for her. It was this that inspired the name of the project. Her dad is also the model in 'Father Figure' (pictured above).

The surreal elements of the photos invite the viewer to step into a new world unaffected by time - and also encourage us to reflect on the reality of our own world. 

“It’s been amazing seeing our work shown all over the world, but there’s nothing like bringing it home," Vanessa says. "A lot of the work was shot in Shropshire – we really wanted to showcase how magical Shropshire is.”

  • The exhibition 'On the Land an Oak Will Grow' by Henry Woide and Vanessa Fairfax-Woods is free to view at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery until Friday, June 30th, 2023.