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Woman at car boot sale with dogs, Wiggenhall St Germans, Norfolk - by Si Barber

1 August 2018

Si Barber is a freelance photographer based in Norfolk.

This photograph shows a woman at a car boot sale in a village called Wiggenhall St Germans in Norfolk. She is with her dogs, one of which has a growth defect. I took two frames, this one was lifted by a momentary ray of sunlight.

My favourite images are ones that come from ordinary events and people just going about their  business. I spend a lot of time researching the local papers and websites to see what's going on locally; it's something I learned from when I was an agency photographer. Like a lot of my non-commissioned work, this photograph was shot on 35mm colour negative film and then scanned. 35mm film is now rightly regarded as redundant and offers little when compared to digital, except for the pleasing ritual of processing and the grain of the negative which gives the image a slightly washed-out look when compared to an optimised RAW digital file. In that way it seems to more accurately reflect what I see. It doesn't make sense, but as no-one's paying me I figure I'll do it the way I want to.

The image is from my project Tigerland which looks at daily life in the Fenlands of East Anglia in the run up to and subsequent to the Brexit referendum. It's currently on show in London and was part of a series of events in National Democracy Week.

Whatever your view of the referendum on Britain's membership of the EU no-one would doubt it delivered a considerable shock to the mindset of the chattering classes, whose opinion much of our media seeks to flatter. Part of that shock was the disruption it caused to their view of the country and the realisation that not everybody sees it the way they do. That divide was most prominent in the area in which I live known as the Fenlands, an area of land in Eastern England recovered from the North Sea which ignores man-made boundaries but covers Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire. Characterised by low-lying marshes, it's a sparsely populated place whose inhabitants are known as 'Fen Tigers' due to their combative outlook on life and scepticism towards governance. They voted over 75% in favour of leaving the EU, compared to their more well-to-do neighbours in the nearby city of Cambridge who reflected the opposite of that result by voting almost 75% to remain.

Much was made of this divide by journalists visiting the area in the months following the vote, many of whom concluded that it was down to poverty and/or ignorance. One notable writer dismissed the entire 1500 square miles of the Fenlands as a place populated by 'low information people'. This reductive approach to complex issues seems to be a characteristic of the contemporary media landscape as they chase diminishing advertising revenues and readers. It adds nothing to the debate and lacks any kind of nuance. Consequently my aim in this work was to show the Fens and its people as multi-faceted and rich in history.

In fact, had those same reporters examined history then perhaps the results of the Referendum would not have come as such a surprise; the people here are well-known for their rebellious ways and influence they have had in shaping Britain into the country it is; from Hereward The Wake who resisted the Norman invasion, to Thomas Paine and the Boston Pilgrims who founded modern America, and Oliver Cromwell who asserted the primacy of a common democracy. The Fen Tigers have on numerous occasions reminded Parliaments and kings that they ultimately govern by consent of the people.

Tigerland attempts to go beyond the soundbite and connect the past with the present, in the place which William the Conqueror referred to as "that most disputatious part of England".

Selections from the series are on show at the Troubadour, London, SW5 9JA until 31st July 2018. The full set of images so far can been seen here: Tigerland by Si Barber

See more work by Si Barber

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