TUNNEL LOVE

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Indy Lifestyle Online
When 25-year-old photographer Nick Clague graduated from Nottingham Trent University he decided, like many others, that it might be easier to find work if he moved to London - but the capital had a more direct effect on his career than he anticipated.

"I came to London thinking I'd just have a look around, try and find some subjects, but it was so polluted, just cycling to the end of the road made me feel sick," he explains. Choked by London fumes, Clague set off for Newbury to find out more about the environmental protest there and found himself "sucked in" to documenting the dynamics of Direct Action.

Since then, he has spent almost two years photographing the lives of campaigners at Newbury, Fairmile, and Bollin Wood in Cheshire, producing Mayday Mayday, a portfolio of protest that goes on show at London's Dazed and Confused Gallery from today. Exploring the relationship between the personal and political, his work steers a problematic course between the realism and romanticism inherent in Britain's last shreds of political activism.

Unlike many of the other participants in the Swampy-snapping media circus, Clague lived for long periods amid the trees, ground benders and tunnels of the camps in question. "I had to," he says, "you can't go there, watch them, then pitch up at a hotel." Inspired by the conviction of his subjects he would venture back to the Big Smoke only to pick up and develop films. The result is an intimate and empathetic exhibition which infuses the personal with the political as it ranges from portraiture to landscape, offering a panorama of fragile eco-systems, tunnels, by-passes and Boeings.

"Protestors get slagged off a lot of the time but they're putting their lives on the line for what they believe," says Clague, who is now ready to return to London. "People who live surrounded by concrete are alienated from the issues and fed crap by the media. All sorts of people are involved, it's not just the media's crusty stereotypes. I'd like to show people in cities photographs that will make them want to go out and get involved - to protect this `green and pleasant land' before it disappears."

Dazed and Confused, 112 Old St, London EC1 (0171-336 0766) to 4 Jul

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