And the Livin’ is Easy was started in November 2019. It was my first ever attempt of taking more serious photos than Kodak disposables of my friends at the club. The project was borne from a brief, ‘what is your London?’, set by Create Jobs, a charity helping underrepresented young people take their first steps into the creative and cultural sector.
I decided to respond to this brief by photographing my working-class family. Last year I began engaging with consciousness-raising literature and film that focussed on the idea of class in British society. The ideas of Mark Fisher, Nathalie Olah and Akala resounded with me because they presented a stark alternative to the dominant and widely accepted narrative that exists about class today: a narrative built up by the likes of Jeremy Kyle’s poverty porn, Gymbox’s ‘Chav fighting classes’ and Rees-Mogg’s assertion that Grenfell victims ‘lacked common sense’. I wanted to present authentic working-class stories, which have been largely erased from both the creative industry and the media unconscious.
Extending my project beyond the Create Jobs brief, the aim of this portfolio is to subvert demonising, two-dimensional caricatures of the working-class and replace them with a presentation of unique characters, with complex existences. In addition, I sought to visualise the more abstract and psychological impact of belonging to a low socio-economic class, a further rebellion against the tabloid tales of antisocial behaviour, benefits scrounging and general thickness. The collection of photos I have submitted has a focus on strained relationships and mental health issues, two often disregarded consequences of subjugation. Zooming into different family members, my portfolio captures my teenage brother’s struggle with depression and the space he shares with my 42-year-old brother, my father’s isolation and my desperately coping mother. These photos highlight the tensions and moments of softness that define the complexity of working-class life.It was my intention to shoot with intimacy and tenderness, as opposed to the harshness and voyeurism that characterises much of the limited photographic explorations of poor people in Britain. Despite being taken in phases over the past nine months, I still feel that I have only touched upon the full dimensionality of my family’s personalities and situations. I will continue to document their lives, not only for the aforementioned, but also because of the valuable psychological insight shooting these images has afforded me. Observing my quotidian realities through a lens has given me unexpected clarity and has been therapeutic and healing for my familial relationships.
I called this project ‘And the Livin’ is Easy’ because various renditions of Summertime have been played in my house for as long as I can remember. Though the lyrics are about something very different, the mood the song creates – bitter sweetness to the highest degree – has always seemed to mirror the atmosphere amongst my family.