Homegrown© Stephen Burridge
As a photographer I explore culture and identity in the Uk. I depict humour, obscured narratives and vivid colour palettes in the social constructs on our streets, from London to the coastal regions of the UK. I'm drawn to people's sense of ideology and taste, entwined in the identifiable demographics we see around us. Taste is an intrinsic part of the fabric of society, we labor under the sense of self, portraying certain characteristics of a social hierarchy. It's these characteristics, with all their distinctions and overtones, I aim to capture. I find the middle ground to be a mediocre display of well rounded ideas - a safe space for economic growth and capitalist ideals, where people practice etiquette and tight rules of conduct, perfect for a particular Brexit voting neoconservative - no space for visual exploration! One could argue the lower down the social spectrum the more exuberant the display of personalities becomes. In these areas I explore; people have a genuine need to communicate with their peers, a sense of belonging and a desire to be part of their community. The ' homegrown ' nuances, formed through convergence and diversity, play a part in the confection of idiosyncrasies in these areas, where my conscious and unconscious observation is used to construct my distinctly raw photographic works.
In East London there are many battling with a growing middle class, a slow take over of gentrification of inner cities, smothering these rich and interesting places I enjoy photographing. Refining these spaces do have positive outcomes - but the price is muted tones and a hushed underclass - replaced with bourgeois ideology, praising capitalist notions of materialism and consumption. The lower classes flagrant disregard for commercial products have caused the well heeled notions of capitalism to bear down an iron fist, making little room for social mobility and respectable living standards. These rich, diverse and wondrous places thrive on community spirit. Not dictated too by government incentives and lobbing cooperations - ' fringe' groups bring world cultures together, an acceptance of difference and a global collective to our streets. The Brexiteers want their traditional values back, too centralise a very English idea of living, gentrification is rising and pulling in a burgeoning economy, a refined utopia serving the social elite - this is not something I wish to explore. The crumbling facade of nationalism has no place in modern society. Its a misalignment of ideals that spawn beauty, not a symphony of order, its the convergence on street corners, the inclusion of others, a measurable assemblage of stuff, messy with life. It's how this struggle is being realised in our streets that allow me to cast characterful and authentic subjects to photograph. The images play with the beauty and nuance in diverse groups, capturing symbolic notions of representation and mood. They have an authenticity - translating and relaying cultural stereotypes of life in Britain.
Along side the gentrification of inner cities there are impoverished and economically regressive coastal regions I explore. Full of a forgotten era and a lost romanticism where I use candid observations and wit to portray informative representations of traditional values. I see these areas as an expression of Englishness, forming kitsch and vibrant palettes of taste and unconventional eloquence. My form of social commentary has no intention of being great, I delve in to my immediate environments to be part of an honest experience, where I find beauty in places of cultural reflection. I want to be closer to people who are overtly expressive, as opposed to those who I would consider sleek. Where I find colour and humanity I try to connect with my use of photography and be there with an inquisitive mind. My inquisitive mind takes me to the polar opposites of UK culture - to the sprawling multicultural inner cities of London, to the partly forgotten sea fronts fighting to stay alive. With these two very different spaces i'm able to photograph varied and interesting topics, topics very much of their time!
-Stephen Burridge October 2019
click to view the complete set of images in the archive