In 2019, Tessa Bunney was commissioned for NEPN’s enquiry project Observe Experiment Archive, also supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
Between March 2019 and February 2020, Bunney worked in South Holland, a rural district in the South East of Lincolnshire where man drained, reclaimed and enclosed nearly three quarters of a million acres of fenland. By the late 1800s, flower bulbs produced both for cut flowers and for sale as a dried bulb, were a well-established crop in the Spalding area and it is now one of the UK’s major flower growing regions. The Flower Fields documents growers including traditional Lincolnshire mixed-rotation family farms and larger commercial growers, who mainly grow a limited range of flowers under glass and are pioneering the use of various technologies including hydroponics and optical graders.
The study also naturally considers the human aspects of this industry, where machinery meets the hands of both family farmers and the fragile migrant workforces.
‘Bunney’s engagement with and rigour that she brings to her documentation of the industry is revelatory,’ – Greg Hobson, Flower Stories essay in The Flower Fields.
A new book published by NEPN is available to buy via Tessa Bunney’s website (purchase price of £16.50 plus P&P), containings 42 colour photographs as well as texts by independent curator Greg Hobson and Caroline Beck, writer, grower and founder of Verde Flower Co.
An excerpt from The Flower Fields was shown in the Observe Experiment Archive exhibition at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens (15 November 2019-05 January 2020) and will be shown in a solo exhibition at Ayscoughfee Hall Museum (Geest Gallery) in Spalding, Lincolnshire in 2022.
For over 25 years, Tessa Bunney has photographed rural life, working closely with individuals and communities to investigate how the landscape is shaped by humans. From hill farmers in North Yorkshire to Icelandic puffin hunters, from Finnish ice swimmers to Romanian nomadic shepherds, Bunney’s projects reveal the fascinating intricacies of the dependencies between people, work and the land. Tessa is currently working on Made out of Orchards commissioned by the Martin Parr Foundation and Going to the Sand, an ongoing project collaborating with Morecambe Bay fishermen.
Bunney’s long-term project FarmerFlorist explores the vibrant local ‘artisan’ cut-flower farms, which have recently sprung up in the UK and is a celebration of domestic growers past and present. Shown at Ryedale Folk Museum (2018), Oriel Colwyn (2019), published in Rakes Progress and on the BBC, the project was also published in a book by Another Place Press in 2020.