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Rob Brown, Deputy Manager of Campanile Hotel, Leicester, from 'English Journey' by John Angerson

1 April 2020

Since its publication 85 years ago, English Journey by J. B. Priestley has become a benchmark for writers, social historians and photographers. George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier and much of the work of photographer Bill Brandt bears its influence; it was even mooted that it played a part in the policymaking decisions of the labour government in 1945.

This contemporary photographic journey embraces the spirit of Priestley’s English Journey, by using the subtitle of the book: ‘Being a rambling but truthful account of what one man saw and heard and felt and thought during a journey through England.’ As my journey took shape, another global economic downturn similar to that of the 1930s has taken hold. ‘Americanisation’ and homogenisation seem to penetrate almost every town and city.

The England I discovered is manufacturing less and has become highly reliant on technology. Celebrity culture and its media stronghold is fast becoming a national obsession. The perceived threat of global terrorism means new laws have been created, curtailing the freedom to photograph in public places, and PR departments are increasingly stringent as to how their organisations are portrayed.

However, the open-hearted spirit of people I have encountered while wandering across England has made me believe, as J. B. Priestley did, that we work as individuals towards a common goal of cooperation never forgetting that we are all dependent on one another.

While I was checking out of the Campanile Hotel in Leicester during my journey around England, I noticed Rob Brown’s powerful pose at the reception desk. I cautiously asked if I could take his picture. He agreed, he stayed in the same pose and position throughout the process of me setting up my cumbersome 5x4 camera. I took one frame, thanked him and proceeded to pack my kit away. He said nothing, he just continued with his day and proceeded to check-out the next customer.

John Angerson started his career in the early 1990's, covering the fall of the Berlin Wall and the changing geopolitical landscape of Eastern Europe. Since then, his practice has continued to explore the different languages of documentary photography, focusing on how specific communities form, shift and develop. His personal projects have garnered critical acclaim and have been exhibited at major art institutions in the UK and overseas. His monograph Love, Power, Sacrifice documented the Jesus Army over twenty years and peers into a microcosm of fanatical religion.

His latest book English Journey (2019) became the photobook of the year at PHmusuem, Italy. It has won numerous awards for its design and is now sought-after by collectors worldwide. It can be purchased from John's website here. He now splits his time between shooting personal work, holding university lectures and workshops, and shooting features and portraiture for a range of magazines, charities, and design agencies.

See more work by John Angerson

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