Award-winning photographer Justin Barton joins us this September for a pop-up exhibition of never-seen-before images documenting the restoration of St Giles House, the home of the twelfth Earl of Shaftesbury – Nick Ashley-Cooper. In 2005 Ashley-Cooper found himself with responsibility unexpectedly thrust upon him – his task, to inherit and preserve his family’s crumbling Dorset stately home. As the ‘spare’ rather than the heir, he spent his early twenties building a career as a dance DJ in New York. The series documents not only a story of evolving aesthetics, but one of perseverance and triumph.
St Giles House fell into a period of disrepair following WWII, and appeared on the English Heritage, ‘Building at Risk’ register. Over a decade on from 2005 and the house bears little resemblance to the disintegrating shell it was taken on as. The project is now the subject of a new book, The Rebirth of an English Country House: St Giles House, written by the Earl of Shaftesbury and art-historian and museum director Tim Knox, with photographs by Justin Barton. The Earl of Shaftesbury’s award-winning restoration has brought the house back to life, transforming its exquisite spaces which honour the past, whilst being suited to twenty-first century living.
In his subtly nuanced tones, Barton perfectly captures the before, after and during of restoring an English country-house. Helped by the hands of some of the world’s top artisans and craftspeople, encompassing re-created wallpapers, customised paints, revived furniture from the Georgian and Victorian period, reworked antique Brussels tapestries, restored plasterwork and textiles, and a complete overhaul of the landscape, with its sunken garden, woodlands, avenue of beeches, lake and shell-encrusted grotto. St Giles House typifies a love affair with restoration that is as much about life today as it is a preservation of the past.
Much of Barton’s photography focuses on identity and heritage, as well as architectural narratives. It’s Nice That (magazine) has said that ‘In his photography series Interiors he has collected some beautiful images of some of the most incredible rooms in the country’. Of his own work Barton states ‘Seeking a deeper understanding of history, I examine objects, environments and people closely to highlight the traces of their past and use the reflection of today to glean unusual perspective on the past’.
The series depicts formerly ostentatious spaces, which have still retained a sense of their nobility, are littered with scaffolding, ladders and dust-covers, pasting-tables, paint-pots and fire extinguishers whilst lights dangle precariously on their wiring. ‘Full-length portraits’ of majestic rooms, the Tapestry Room, Handel Room Corridor and Great Dining Room are contrasted with macros of beautiful details such as mugs lined up against a sill, cracked tiles in the White Hall and half-finished plastering. Comparing the ‘in-progress’ shot to the finished article evidences a fascinating collaboration between craftsmanship and photography.
In 2012, St Giles was announced the winner of the Historic Houses Association and Sotheby’s Restoration Award. In 2015 the project won the Sotheby’s Restoration Award. The book, The Rebirth of an English House: St Giles House comes out in September 2018. St Giles house lies in Wimborne St Giles on the southern edge of Cranbourne Chase.
Justin Barton’s photography focuses on finding the essence of a subject through portraiture, architecture, still life, interiors and landscapes. He undertakes both commercial and editorial work in all of those disciplines. His work has been exhibited at the Month of Photography, Los Angeles, Singapore, Copenhagen, Belfast, Kolga and Organ Vida international photo festivals. Barton lives and works in London.
2018 Corden Potts Gallery SF. USA (Jul) 2018 MOPLA ‘Analogue Portrait’ LA. USA (Apr) Group Show. 2018 MOPLA ‘Group Show’. LA. USA (Apr) Group Show. 2018 UArts Hamilton & Arronson Galleries Philadelphia, USA (Mar) Group Show 2018 MEDICI Gallery in Richards Hall (University of Nebraska–Lincoln) (Jan) 2017 Whitebox Gallery KL (Sep) Group Show 2017 Toyko Owada Gallery in the Shibuya Cultural Centre – (Feb) Group Show 2016 Tblisi (May) Group Show – Kolga Finalists 2015 Whitebox Gallery KL (Aug) Group Show 2015 Silverprint Gallery (Feb) Group Show – Deepsleep Magazine – Reflections 2014 Singapore International Photo Festival (Oct) European Selection 2014 Organ Vida Photo Festival (Sep) Group 2014 St Giles House (Aug) Solo Show – The Restoration of St Giles 2013 Museum Villa Stuck (Sep) 2013 Organ Vida Photo Festival (Sep) Group Show 2013 Copenhaghen Photo Festival (June)
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