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In Summer 2020, in between lockdowns, we commissioned photographer Craig Easton to create a series of portraits that reflected daily town centre life in Nelson. Due to COVID-19 restrictions and limited indoor access, this became a series of portraits of shop owners and local workplaces.

 

This forms the beginnings of new work in this town, where, as with many other post-industrial towns in East Lancashire, Craig has a history of documenting and showing lives beyond labels, challenging the way that images are often used as shorthand to represent whole communities in the media.

Craig Easton is a photographer whose work is deeply rooted in the documentary tradition. He shoots long-term projects exploring issues around social policy, identity and a sense of place. His work mixes portraiture, landscape and reportage approaches to storytelling, often working collaboratively with others to incorporate words, pictures and audio in a research-based practice that weaves a narrative between contemporary experience and history.

 

In recent years, Easton has made numerous inter-related series around the North West of England focussing on the former industrial heartlands and examining the impacts of social policy, immigration,

de-industrialisation and employment etc.

 

These include Thatcher’s Children, a long-form documentary, began in 1992, that examined how successive governments’ social policies have been experienced by one extended family over 30 years; SIXTEEN, a collaborative group project he led exploring ideas of meritocracy and the hopes, ambitions and fears of sixteen-year-olds right across the country and Bank Top, a large-format portrait based project in Blackburn that looks at the notion of cultural, ethnic and social segregation and integration in a highly charged political landscape and examines the legacy of contemporary and colonial foreign policy, immigration and political neglect of the north of England.

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This commission has built on these other projects and brought Craig to Nelson during what turned out to be a brief hiatus in the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

 

During an intense week in early October, he spent days walking around Nelson, a town he knows well, and struck up conversations with shop owners, business owners and liaised with local practitioners and community activists. Working on a 1952, large-format wooden plate camera, he would make portraits and record conversations about their views on Nelson and their experiences of making a living in its town centre.

 

At the end of this process, framed prints from these large-format black and white 10x8 negatives were presented to each person photographed as a thank you.

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This series has been commissioned by In-Situ as part of This is Nelson, a project exploring contemporary Nelson which is funded by Pendle Borough Council with the support of the Nelson Town Deal Board, and which forms a part of the community conversations in the development of Nelson’s bid.

All images from A Week in Nelson / Craig Easton 2021

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