Chris Parker is an award-winning freelance photographer and travel writer based in Hastings.
To see a gallery of more Jack in the Green portraits, go to Chris Parker's Behance portfolio HERE
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1 May 2022
The Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green Festival is an annual folklore celebration that takes place in the historic seaside town, and the May Bank holiday is probably the busiest weekend in the local calendar. The festival is a four-day event that attracts thousands of people to witness the ritual slaying of winter and the welcome release of summer into the world, a tradition which started in the 17th century, from an earlier custom that involved decorating milkmaids with flowers. The earliest reference to a Jack in the Green is from a 1770 account of a London May Day procession, and the tradition became associated with Chimney Sweeps in the 19th century, before dwindling in importance in the early 20th century. Revived in 1983 and getting bigger every year, it has been variously described as “folksy”, “neo-pagan” and “slightly goth”. It offers music, Morris dancers, drummers, sweeps, giants and fire eaters, culminating in a wild, costumed procession where Jack is slain to release the spirit of summer.
Having photographed the Jack in the Green celebrations since way back, I decided to adopt a different approach for what was very much a personal project, and set up atemporary studio for the 2012 & 2013 processions to highlight the amazing folklore costumed characters in a fun yet contemporary style. Technically, I used a state of the art Nikon D800, some very old monolights, a large soft box and a paper backdrop. Two assistants were despatched to select people before the start of the grand procession leaving me with approximately five minutes with each subject, and after an extremely intense 30-minute shoot it was all over.
From these sessions, selections were later chosen for displays in The Jerwood Gallery (now Hastings Contemporary) in 2015 and also to accompany a John Piper exhibition in 2016. A collaboration with The Lucy Bell Gallery bought about a Pagan calendar in 2014 and an exhibition was held in the Crown Inn, Hastings Old Town. Since then, Alamy have looked after the odd sale or three.
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