Glassworks & Secret Lives, published by Stella Press (£12.99), c/o Martello Bookshop, Rye,
East Sussex, TN31 7JJ email: non-trade enquiries only.

What happens when someone whose creativity we receive with profound admiration betrays our expectations?  What happens, after we have conditioned ourselves to acclaim the expected, if crreativity takes a course for which we are unprepared?  Consider - random examples, these - the (in)famous cry of "Judas" at Bob Dylan's Manchester concert in 1965;  the opprobrium that greated Phillip Guston's return to figurative painting in 1966.  We want sameness, comfort, more than we want the radical changes that some artists need to make;  we want sameness, comfort, more than we want to recognise the same creativity that once comforted us now permeating something that is new and challenging.

At least Dylan and Guston got a critical reception, which meant that, as time passed, the quality and nature of the rupture was recognised.  The scandal that Glassworks & Secret Lives conceals is that no publisher would consider this work, and precious few exhibition venues.  It's only thanks to the involvement of Olympus that Fay Godwin has been able to publish this book herself.

Why is this?  Fay Godwin is one of our best known landscape photogrpahers, a master of scenery in black and white, and incidentally, working out in photography a long-tradition of subtly depicting the politics of the British countryside.  But there's the rub.  This work is in colour, and Godwin has dispensed with the long view, the sweeping vista and dramatic cloudscape.  All the familiar props of our engagement with Godwin's work have been swept aside.  Our response is to not even grant the space where we might confront the work and criticise, come to terms with the new image.  That is not the way of '90's Britain.  We practise an invidious censorship over that which disturbs us:  the denial of access to the public sphere - whether in gallery, or book, or magazine - through economics rather than the authoritarian pen.

Glassworks & Secret Lives is a beautiful book, every bit as sensitive to the world as Godwin's monochrome works, but here the joy is in the detail, the intimate.  Where her earlier books were, in the broadest sense, political and ethical essays, Glassworks & Secret Lives is rapturously erotic.  This is the world close-up and personal, it is both metaphorically, and sometimes literally, that garden to which Candide retreated as an escape from history.  Which is not to say that Godwin has forever given up on the political, but rather that one needs balance in order to maintain perspective.  Nothing here invalidates or rebukes anything that has preceded it.

Ian Jeffrey's brief, perceptive, essay recognises and contextualises Godwin's new path through the countryside.  The whole project is a joy, and publishers everywhere should be ashamed that this book had to be self-published.

Chris Townsend, writing in Hot Shoe International , July/August 1999