About

I am an artist and educator based in Oxfordshire. I situate my practice in expanded photography, particularly the exploration of photography as a subject matter in its own right.

My research based practice explores photography as a material object and its creation as a series of gestures and processes that allow my curiosity and need for novelty to take the lead. I am captivated by the material possibilities of photography and the intersection between material, gesture, process, and play. I am curious about photography’s ability to document the hidden, that which is below the surface, both in me and the material itself. I am exploring how images might emerge from the photographic process and express something of the resonance of these intersections. I love the imperfections, and the merging of what comes from me and what comes from the material. I specifically work with obsolete colour photographic papers and films that are decades old, yet still vibrant with colour and possibility, which might otherwise be redundant. Being able to transform them into something new. To breathe new life into them fills me with joy.

Underlying my work is my need to be sustainable and to acknowledge my individual responsibility to my community and the wider world. I work collaboratively as part of an interdisciplinary community of artists interested in finding more sustainable approaches to art making, with an emphasis on reducing environmental impact and developing ecologies of sustainable practice.

My practice is informed and supported through the integration of my artist-teacher identities. My teaching draws on both pedagogic and andragogic strategies to co-create the learning environment. I am committed to the value art brings to both individuals and communities, not just engagement with works of art but more so, the practice of art. I am particularly interested in the role art practice can play in developing personal confidence, analytical thinking, critical discourse, cultural and political awareness, and places of connection in the wider community.

My socially engaged practice is expressed through my involvement with community arts organisations. I run a community darkroom in east Oxford, I deliver workshops through Fusion arts, OVADA, Art at The Old Fire Station, The Pitt Rivers Museum, and Oxford Summer School among many. My workshop program focuses on alternative and experimental approaches, exploring a wide range of sustainable photographic practices.

Biography:

John A. Blythe was born and raised in East London and Essex and became passionate about photography at an early age, experimenting widely and developing a creative abstract approach. In his childhood and early adulthood, Blythe spent several extended periods in India and credits this experience as having a formative influence on his sense of light and colour. In the late 1980’s Blythe studied with the renowned artist/photographer Rotimi Fani Kayode and went on to establish a professional commercial photography career, working from his south London studio and producing high-profile campaigns with advertising and design agencies for over 20 years. Keen to return to his fine art interests, Blythe started teaching in 2010, graduated PGDip (ArtEd) in 2016, and went on to complete a Master of Fine Art in Fine Art from Oxford Brookes University in 2019.

In 2017 Blythe was awarded an artist development grant by OVADA (Oxford Visual Arts Development Agency) for his ongoing project ‘A little light’, which led to his first joint show Accord at The Old Fire Station Gallery, Oxford. Blythe has since exhibited widely, including at the CICA Museum, Gyeonggi-do, Korea; the Bath Photography Festival; Siggrou 24 Project Space, Thessaloniki, Greece; gallery@oxo, Southbank, London; Zuleika Gallery, Woodstock, (awarded joint ‘best in show’) and most recently in The Fabric of Photography at The Old Fire Station Gallery, Oxford, curated by Megan Ringrose. Blythe’s work has been published in Art Seen Magazine, LandEscape Magazine, The Flux Review, Humana Obscura, and in the book This Is (Still) Not A Solution and is held in private and institutional collections worldwide.

Blythe continues to develop his research practice. He studied the wet plate collodion process and salt printing with Michael Schaaf and has held several residencies including ‘Remove’ with London Alt Photography Collective/Guest Projects; ‘Test.Grow.Teach.Learn’ with LAPC, and ‘Sustainable Arts Lab’ with Fusion Arts. Most recently, Blythe has been Artist in Residence at the University of Derby School of Art from 2019-2020 and 2021-2022.

Alongside his practice, Blythe taught photography at Queen Anne’s School, Caversham (2010-2013), worked as Module Leader of Foundation Photography at Bellerby’s College Oxford (2011 -2017), and currently teaches photography at d’Overbroeck’s College Oxford. Blythe runs the Fusion Arts community darkroom in East Oxford, lectures, mentors, and runs workshops specialising in sustainable and experimental approaches to photography. Recognised as an expert in his field, Blythe appeared in the BBC’s Celebrity Antiques Road Trip in 2021 to talk about Anna Atkins and the history of the Cyanotype photographic process.

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