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Swollen Utopia

Updated: Nov 29, 2019

How do we write the collective story of our times while desperately writing our own narrative? asks artist Sean Campbell. In an attempt to answer his own question, Campbell uses his photographic practice to probe the myths and legends held within the landscape.

Images from the project a HERALD in vibrant ENDS.

In his project Swollen Utopia, Sean Campbell returns to his hometown in the Scottish coastal district of Inverclyde to pursue an image of his 'original landscape', a phrase derived from the photobook Tales of Tono by Moriyama. With a focus on place, Campbell hopes to consolidate his formative years with the broader narratives which shape the story of Inverclyde.

“The last woman burned for being a witch in the area was murdered in Inverkip. James Watt, the father of the commercial steam engine, that critical agitator of the industrial revolution and lynchpin of modern capitalism, was born in Greenock, and his presence is memorialised throughout the region.

Inverclyde's shipbuilding industry was decimated by Thatcherite policies, with a similar fate befalling its technological industry in the 90s and 00s. In addition, Inverclyde sits on the banks of the River Clyde opposite the mouth of Gare Loch, where the Faslane missile base holds the UKs stockpile of Trident nuclear missiles.”

Selection of images from Swollen Utopia.

The weight of Inverclyde's particular political backdrop is present in Campbell's photographs, a ghostliness haunting all of his work beyond the disguised bodies and evasive figures.

Bad omens, loaded textual messages, and the somewhat violent emptiness of the images in Swollen Utopia function as a sort-of memento mori: reminding us of the legacies and loss of the past, and potential destructive futures to come.

Using the process of analog image-making, Campbell reimagines the tradition of storytelling through observation, mapping a line from personal memory to folktale to bring together the individual and the community.

Image from the project Covenant.


To see more of Sean's work, or to contact him, visit:

Feature written by Megan Daly.


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