Roots is a social documentary project based on my hometown Long Sutton, Lincolnshire. The idea for the project began when I was constantly being asked by friends and family not only what I wanted to do after graduation, but also where I wanted to live. So, I began to think, why do people choose Long Sutton? It’s a very small town with a slow-paced lifestyle, growing up there it appeared there was never anything to do. This project was a chance for me to see it through the eyes of people who have lived there for most if not their whole lives, ranging from thirty-three to sixty-five years. I also included some of the main independent shop owners in the town, who are not all residents, but some of the shops have been there between forty to fifty years. Many of the shops are listed buildings, showing the historical aspects of the town. Alongside the portraits are landscapes of the town to set the scene. This includes the Church, one of the parks and the town centre on Market Day which has taken place since the 1600’s. To an outsider, the town most likely looks like any other town you could come across in England, but to the people living and working there, there is something special about it which has rooted them down.
Whilst I was photographing all the residents and shop owners I also asked them a few questions about the town. Some of the answers were:
“I think I like the fact that really people in a smaller town are very caring about other people. I think It’s safe.”, “I’ve never felt the need to go and live anywhere else.” – Resident for sixty-five years.
“I think it’s just a nice place to be. As soon as I work in the city I just want to come home.” “I’ve definitely got the country bumpkin in me.” – Resident for fifty-two years.
“I was born here, so my family is from here. There are 6 generations.” – Resident for thirty-three years.
“I used to deliver to this town years ago and I fell in love with it years ago and it’s always been my favourite place, ever.”, “There are some lovely people in this town.” – The Secret Garden Florist, shop owners for fifteen years.
The whole project was shot using a medium format Bronica GS1, I avoided the square format as I wanted more information in the images. I shot on colour using Ektar 100 as it creates very saturated images, showing the vibrancy of the town during springtime. Using an analogue camera slows down the process and forced me to really focus on what I wanted to capture. Due to how old the town is it felt appropriate to photograph it in this way. All the photographs in the project are digital c-type prints, framed and mounted. The frames are made from oak, I wanted the natural wood colour as it complements the hometown atmosphere. The landscape images are size A2 and the portraits are A3. The landscapes are larger in scale because they are what I want the audience to see first, to then come in closer to see the people from the town.
My aim for the project was to present to the audience a small insight into what small-town life is like and to also make them consider their own hometowns. I want it to be an encouragement to explore and appreciate the area you grew up. It was a very interesting way to get to know some of the people in the town. Even though I grew up there, I could not help but feel like an outsider. I hadn’t explored it, gotten to know the people there, or learned the history. I used to see these places every day. Through photographing it, it forced me to really appreciate it, to notice the beauty of the town.