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David Spero's Settlements

Catrina Davies




Haymaking, Tinker's Bubble, Somerset, July 2005


‘How should we live on this planet? Can we lead fulfilling lives whilst sustaining the environment on which we depend for our survival?’

With just twelve years to avert catastrophic climate change, a wholesale collapse in pollinators due to chemical farming, and scientists predicting we have just sixty harvests left before the soil is dead, these are not hypothetical questions.

The way we live is killing us. We are in urgent need of an alternative.

In a series of photographs taken over ten years and collected into a thoroughly beautiful book called 'Settlements'(2017), London-based artist, David Spero, presents a dream-like vision of a future where humans live in close harmony with nature, in homes made of wood and grass, canvas and mud. It is these photographs of a small number of individuals and communities, quietly building and exploring alternative land-based, low-impact ways of living, that form the basis of an exhibition of Spero’s work at Kestle Barton, Cornwall.


Rooh's, Landmatters, Devon, May 2008 Canvas-covered hazel pole bender. Constructed 2005.


The alternative lifestyle Spero documents is not new, and neither is the friction between those who control the land for economic purposes and those who crave the opportunity to live simply within it. The ingenuity and precariousness of the communities Spero has lovingly recorded have both long been part of British culture.

Some have already been forced to dismantle.

What is new is the urgency of the question of how we are to live without destroying ourselves. Cultural change is critical. Inspiration is essential. Rarely has a photographic exhibition seemed more pertinent.


Tony and Faith’s, Brithdir Mawr, February 2005

Roundwood timber-frame roundhouse with cobwood walls and turf-covered reciprocal frame roof. Constructed 1997-98



David Spero: Settlements ran from 20th July to 8th September 2019 at Kestle Barton, Manaccan, Helston, Cornwall. For more information, or to purchase a copy of the book, visit davidspero.co.uk

Catrina Davies is the author of 'Homesick: Why I Live in a Shed', published by Quercus