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.
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.
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