MA Photography student exhibits work across City of Portsmouth

The Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries is proud to share news of University of Portsmouth student John Farnhill’s exhibitions of his MA Photography project ‘Standing in Silence’ in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

The two year project to photograph some of the key sites and landscapes of the old Western Front was inspired by the book entitled The Old Front Line by poet John Masefield in 1917 who visited the battlefields of the Somme.

“All wars end; even this war will some day end, and the ruins will be rebuilt and the fields full of death will grow food, and all this frontier of trouble will be forgotten.  When the trenches are filled in, and the plough has gone over them, the ground will not long keep the look of war.  One summer with its flowers will cover most of the ruin that man can make, and then these places, from which the driving back of the enemy began, will be hard indeed to trace.”  Excerpt from The Old Front Line.

One hundred years on ‘these places’ are not hard to trace.  Indeed many of them are marked with huge memorials, beautifully maintained cemeteries, and a variety of plaques, maps and markers.  There are still traces of the Great War and a thriving tourist industry has grown across the old Western Front.

But what of the battlefields themselves?  Those places where the ‘action’ actually took place and where, to this day, many thousands of bodies lie under the regenerated fields in unmarked graves; the fields of France and Belgium that witnessed the horrors of war so long ago, yet still have an aura about them that insistently evokes the memory of those terrible times.

The artist John Farnhill told us “Rather than seek out the aftermath of conflict or the usual scars of war that are so often pictured, I have photographed these places as they appear today and provided historical information to prompt contemplation of the events that occurred.  The title for this collection relates to the men who stood in silence 100 or so years ago, waiting for the whistle to send them over the top. It is also a reference to my own sentiments as I stood in the emptiness of these places and, of course, to the two minutes silence every 11th of November as the nation stands in silence to remember.

By using place as an artistic theme and focusing on the empty landscape as a pictorial strategy, I have sought to open up a narrative space – a space that invites you, the viewer to contemplate the events that occurred in these places and complete your own narrative.”

‘Standing in Silence’ exhibitions:

St Thomas’s Cathedral, Old Portsmouth : 30 Oct – 11 Nov (Private view 6.30 – 8pm on 31 October – everyone welcome).

St Mary’s Church, Portchester Castle: 20 – 25 Nov 18, 10am – 4pm.


John Farnhill is a Hampshire based photographer specialising in Fine Art and Contemporary Documentary work.  He graduated with first class honours in Photography in 2013 and has just completed a Master’s Degree in Photography, both at the University of Portsmouth.

To view and example of John’s work visit his website.

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