The English landscapes of London-based photographer Polly Tootal (1978) teeter between descriptive places of self-assured Englishness and ambiguous places of generic anywhereness. In looking at parking lots and playgrounds, suburban housing complexes and shopping centres, she directs our attention to the quotidian landmarks of contemporary Western civilisation, characteristic and yet somehow lacking in specificity.
Tootal intentionally shoots these man-made scenes without their inhabitants present, the result feeling somehow jarringly false, like a stage set. Yet, when viewed in this way, we’re able to see the environments where we live, work and play more accurately as deliberate constructions of our communities. The images invite us to look carefully at the mundane choices that are being made at every step along the way towards that cultural creation: the choice of building materials, the positioning of rubbish bins and height of security fences, the decision to include (or not) natural elements like trees, as well as the distance placed between neighbours.