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Photography (MA)

Bethany Sewell

dark room covered with black and white abstract projections
set of four black and white images showing a room covered with black and white abstract projections

The Breathing Room is an immersive installation aimed to encapsulate the rich and brimming layers of history that are written underneath the surface of my hometown: Bristol. 

This immersive experience began with experiments of creating abstract tree structures, painted with Soilscapes. These images are formed using light sensitive chemicals and soil to create abstract impressions of the land. 

These structures can be engaged with and walked in and around, as if exploring a root system. A natural web, which creates life and sustains other living beings through providing clean air from the plants growing from these roots. 

My Breathing Room immerses the viewer in the underworld. Yet, this installation analyses my ongoing research into the narrative of how photography can piece together our current concept of reality, and how past layers of history can merge with new life to form living timelines, that are always in motion. 

The work also experiments with the power of light to tell stories, captures ambiences that would otherwise be invisible and widens our perspective of greater natural processes that orbit around what it means to be human. Ultimately, the work encapsulates the rich and brimming layers of the atmosphere lurking both above and underneath the visible surface of my local landscape. 


Projections of alternative photographic landscape prints.
dark room with three boards with abstract black and white projections
collection of six black and white abstract soil images on black background
black and white abstract image
blue toned abstract print
Blue abstract projects cover all walls of a room with circular soil sculptures on floor

Blue. The colour travelling in motion, bringing landscapes, dreamscapes, emotions, and memories in and out of consciousness. In a time where humanity is at the brink of transformation, this colour brings a sense of intense calm between thought, figure, and space. 

This immersive cyanotype installation aims to encourage a new understanding of landscape, especially those which we encounter daily. Showing splashes, strokes, even swathes of blue washing over the void, absorbing the landscape as if a reflected sponge, transforming blank surfaces into a window, showing a scene of constantly evolving space, unfixed, and ever changing. 

It is a view of the beginning and the end. A dreamscape ready to be moulded and sculpted into a new definition of space, atmosphere, land. But it is also a place of continuing expiration, as the tones will eventually fade on rotting fabric, as they decompose to return to the land from which they came. The blue is a view for the avid window watcher, scenic route taker and landscape lover. It defines the act of gazing, looking, and coming face to face with what lies beyond. 

I create these images by painting light sensitive chemicals onto surfaces in my homemade darkroom. Placing these large fragments in the land and leaving them coated with soil, sediment, leaf litter and even footprints, they evolve and transform over time, absorbing the atmosphere they are immersed in. 

The photographs absorb pollutants circulating the atmosphere, which create a new, precarious world. A new view, one that presents the world as a window into an alternative way of looking. This is what the blue void suggests: it is an opening of the fragmented landscape, for new realities to come into existence. 

three abstract cyanotype images with blue, white and cyan colours
blue abstract cyanotype banner
three images of abstract blue projections and a whittled stick on a ground of soil


Projected cyanotype landscape paintings, Wax prints, Circular soil sculptures, Whittled sticks

My spatial cyanotype fragments explore the impact of the passage of time on our changing landscapes. They form earthly treasures and are a window between reality and another state. A state of fragility of the landscape, but also a possibility for new ways of seeing through the human constructs of the spaces in which we live. 

The patchwork pieces of my cyanotype prints bring a sense of possibility, of something more than what is here. These painted photographs show landscapes that once were blossoming in past times and are now buried in layers of our living landscapes beneath our feet. 

Using the contaminated earth and all its attributes, I create impressions, documents, even portraits of layers of the landscape. My artwork becomes a living piece of the earth, forming an honest impression of the atmosphere at a specific moment in time. In this way, the works become a map, or a landmark, navigating the viewer through a landscape they may not be in, but can be experienced in a personal way through my immersive installations.

Degree Details

School of Arts & HumanitiesPhotography (MA)RCA2023 at Truman Brewery

Truman Brewery, F Block, Ground, first and second floors

Blue cyanotype with shadow figure.

A journey towards ‘sense of place’ is at the heart of my practice. As an artist, I transform blank surfaces into new layers of the landscape, showing a scene of constantly evolving space, unfixed, and ever changing. Through my main points of research into alternative photographic processes and immersive installations, I create discourse between figure and landscape.

My practice flows between photography, writing and artworks, that are grounded in a playfulness of ever evolving ideas. Much of these works involve the participation of the viewer and celebrate the interaction of the neighbourhood with local nature. I lead and work with other artists to deliver workshops on nature and photography such as the RCA Cyanotype Workshop at Great Exhibition Road Festival, London, 2022. I also deliver talks, and most recently gave a presentation to the BA Photography students at London Metropolitan University about my immersive installations.

Adjacent to my art practice, I contribute to publications exploring a wide range of topics from art to science and have been published on various platforms including BBC Wildlife Magazine, Rife Magazine, Earth Color by Emma Burleigh and online photography platform NatureTTL.

Born in Bristol, England, my work is heavily influenced by landscapes in the South West and investigates the identity of ‘home’ and how we interact with nature on personal levels. I studied BA Marine and Natural History Photography at Falmouth University, before completing my MA in Photography at the Royal College of Art in 2023. Over the course of my studies, my practice has become a point of inquiry into what landscape can mean to different audience members. Debating how creativity can be a tool within community to create conversations about how we can better understand the nature that lives in these spaces alongside us.

If you would like to see more of my work in greater detail please visit my website.