Exhibitions past/present to feature this series:
Trilogy Female Perspectives. Showing Space, Lincoln. 15th September to 18th September 2021
Untitled Exhibition. Crowland Community Hub, Crowland. 6th-7th September 2021.
Made in Lockdown. Peterborough Cathedral, Peterborough. 21st January-18th February 2022.
Community. It’s a word we all know. We know its meaning, the way it works as a structure and even its values. We know that it can play a pivotal role within our society, particularly in how our individual lives can be transformed with the presence of community. The act of belonging in such a structure can embellish the quality of those individual lives, and collectively lead to an environment which seeks to involve all within. Communities resound within spaces or locations, and the one in which this photobook focuses on, is that of a small market town; Crowland.
Crowland is situated in Lincolnshire, just on the border of Cambridgeshire, with Peterborough merely stood 10 miles away. And it’s here in Crowland, where you can find unique structures, such as Crowland Abbey, and Trinity Bridge. It also houses an estimated 4,748 people, (estimation dated 2019), across a 1,330km² area. These people form a community, not just in their act of living in Crowland, but their societal desire to collectively come together for the sake of making the experience of living in Crowland, a more humble and comfortable experience. I am one of those residents.
I was born in Peterborough and have resided in Crowland for the 22 years since, with a few generations of family behind me also. In this time, I have always felt that there is a strong sense of community here. Whether I have felt that is down to local events, such as The Crowland Show, Party in the Park, Jubilee Celebrations, Firework Displays, or local services such as the Facebook group Crowland Chatter, the monthly dispersing of the community magazine; The Crowland Town Magazine, or just the simplicity of walking down a road and recognising, or maybe even conversing with others you either know well or merely in passing; I just have this feeling that these, and other community ties, have come to directly affect my individual life, and has assisted my progression and made me who I am, simply due to existing within such a community.
When 2020 came around, we came to a standstill. We were instructed to stay at home as a global pandemic gripped us; hard. It made us reflect and realise how fortunate we were just to see our families, work alongside others and just how much we took living normally for granted. But ironically, when we were kept apart, we remained together. My community responded with so many enduring projects. A group called Corona Assist was set up, which were individuals who gave up their time to shop for others, run any errands or just be at the end of the phone so no one was alone during such a dark and negative time. Crowland residents were sewing masks and selling them for charity. And the local Food Bank established themselves more within the community, by setting up The Crowland Community Larder, in which saw that families would not go hungry as financial times grew harder. I started to volunteer with the Larder in April/May of 2020, and as of August 2021, I still volunteer there every two weeks. I found during the darkest times, it gave me light and the hope that times would get better. It truly gave me purpose during the times of the pandemic, as I saw the kindness and generosity of the people around me. It was from this personal admiration of my community that Common Ground came to be.
Common Ground is a series of portraits of different individuals, organisations and even business’ that reside in and around Crowland, in the hope to celebrate how every one of them makes the community what it is, and simply just celebrate my admiration of them. Whether they have long connections to Crowland or are new to the area; each one of them plays a pivotal role in the continuation of our community. The inclusion of local business’ & organisations I hope shall support the message of supporting local and to use your services close to you to support both your local economy, local societal well-being, and individual livelihoods. With just under 5,000 people estimated to live in Crowland, capturing everybody is an impossible challenge, but I hope that Common Ground opens a small window into this community, and allow a glimpse into people who make the community here and have allowed it to be formed as it is.
The full-figure portraits taken in outdoor surroundings, are purposeful in this project, and for more than one reason. The production of work in a time of continued social distancing and presence of the ongoing pandemic being one. On this matter, I chose to make mask wearing a voluntary choice, and have in some ways welcomed its presence, due to it being indicative of representing a sign of the time in which the project was produced. I also feel its appearance holds somewhat with the personal and fuelled admiration I held for my community when I chose to volunteer with the Crowland Community Larder. Secondly, the purpose of using the backdrop of outdoor surroundings, also holds a sense of mapping both people, and Crowland. The inclusion of buildings/objects geographically maps a space in which the community members inhabit or use, and the people within them surroundings map how the space is used, as well as give a deeper insight into who they might be as a person. It is in these small inclusions that I draw deeper meaning and context to my work, which I hope resonates with you, the viewer.
It is within this photobook that you shall also see a celebration of Crowland as a geographical place, through a series of photographs taken of specific locations in Crowland, that hope to shine a light on collective spaces in which people use/appreciate around them. This singular angle hopes to appreciate that the people make the space, but the space also makes the people, while also allowing Crowland to gain appreciation for acting as the backdrop for this community to thrive.
The finishing touch to this project is the thoughts and feelings of those photographed being brought to life by the answering of questions on the day they were photographed. I penned 8 questions, to allow the holding of a small interview, and the answers I would collect via recording, which I later transcribed. This ethnographic survey would allow my work to gather contextual body, allow me to learn more about everyone, and gain a sense of community broader than I first envisaged. Entire interviews were not possible to include, so instead I chose singular quotations to accompany their photographs, in the hope to once again to allow you, the viewer, a window into how they feel about the community and allow a more diverse interpretation of community to be represented.
It has been during the production of this series, whether that be the act of photographing, asking questions or simple research, that I have learnt many important things about community. I have learnt that they are diverse, there are communities within communities, it doesn’t always have to be defined to a geographical space, and that being in a community isn’t always a positive experience. So far, it may seem I am implying its always perfect to belong to a community, but we still need to appreciate that there is more than one way to tell a story and that there is more content to a book than what you read.
It is with that I note, I accept that no community is perfect. Whether it be negative due to crime levels, anti-social behaviour, online negativity, or just the simplicity of being older and remembering a time in which the community was different; community is never perfect and that must always be remembered.
Now I would guess your desire to understand the naming of this project is paramount before you meet those within my community. Well as you turn the pages; think of your hometown, your city or village, your local neighbourhood, the groups you attend, the places you shop, socialise; think of them and draw connections from my community to yours. Do you know someone interested in Nature? Do you have someone who batters your Cod? Handles your church ceremonies? Sells your Dog Food? A local community hero or heroine? Is interested in History? Stands in your local council? Or is just a familiar face you see on a daily basis? Just look at my community and think of yours. As you turn the pages, I hope you begin to see in this sense, what common attributes our communities have together. As much as I share common ground with those I photograph, due to being a resident of Crowland and active member of my community, I hope I share common ground with you also. I hope by using these portraits as windows, you can draw parallels to your own space and people around you and recognise that even though we reside in different places; there are common attributes to be found.
I want individuals to appreciate the sense of locality, togetherness, and to just embrace the sense of collectiveness that community can offer. I ask you recognise those similarities and celebrate your community.
And I feel I should address those who reside within my community also. I ask those individuals to view this work, and both recognise and consider community values further, and hopefully engage you in wanting to become more involved with the community you see photographed here. This project is a current reflection of our community, it could be transformed within the short time of just 18 months. New development is bringing more to the town, outsiders to our community are moving in. I ask that you welcome them; make them a part of our community and allow them to be an insider. Allow them to form new possible chances for our community. This photobook may be our present, but one day it shall be our history, so I want my community to use this in years to come, as a tool. A tool such as this would enable us to reflect and remember the circumstances in which we stand in that future together. I want my community to embrace this book as a representation of the present, but to also look towards our collective future, in which we remember the past and respect community bonds that have remained there over generations of people.
Common Ground shows a diverse range of people together. I share a common ground with these people, as they do with me. My community is one in which resides within the larger nationwide community we have here in England, the UK and even abroad. I hope you are able to recognise the similarities between them, maybe even some differences, form a rapport, but most of all, that you celebrate your community and cherish it. Recognise, embrace, and be humbled by your Common Ground.