Framing life on Bristol’s margins
For his latest project, Chris Hoare chronicles life in his home city following a period of political upheaval The post Framing life on Bristol’s margins appeared first on 1854 Photography.
For his latest project, Chris Hoare chronicles life in his home city following a period of political upheaval
On 07 June 2020, in Bristol, southwest England, a bronze statue of slave trader Edward Colston was toppled from its plinth. As anti-racism protesters rolled, pushed and dragged the heavily graffitied figure into the city’s harbour, the eyes of the nation – and indeed parts of the world – were fixed on Bristol and its people.
The removal of Colston’s effigy plunged the city into the midst of a fierce debate: was this vandalism or an appropriate fate for a man whose fortune was made, at least in part, from the servitude of others? While politicians and campaigners across the country debated the legitimacy of the act, in Bristol, Chris Hoare observed as local Facebook groups filled with comments from opposing factions. “One of the most notable things was how it divided the city, with many people, particularly on the fringes, disagreeing with [the statue] being pulled down,” Hoare recalls. The photographer’s use of the word ‘fringes’ is not incidental. He is referring to Bristol’s geographical edges, far removed from the affluent city centre, and to those living on the margins of its society. It is within these margins that, in the weeks following the statue’s dethronement, Hoare began his ongoing body of work, Seven Hills.
Born and raised in Bristol’s suburbs, Hoare speaks passionately about his hometown and the increasing division he has witnessed within it. “The city centre, areas around the docks are being taken over by people moving in with lots of money to buy luxury apartments, people that can’t even relate to those on the edges of the city,” he explains. For Hoare, however, the people on the margins are those he relates to most, people from the places he grew up in, whose tender portraits compose much of this highly personal series. His images have a candidness and familiarity about them. They illustrate the reality of everyday life for those living in places such as Hartcliffe, which is among Bristol’s most deprived areas.
“It’s important to show the other side of Bristol, the side which goes against the preconception of the city”
Alongside these portraits, Seven Hills explores some of Bristol’s greatest landmarks, places that signify its prosperous and, at times, mythologised history. The project takes its name from one such popular notion: that the city’s sloping landscape echoes the seven hills that famously sit at the geographical heart of Rome.
These juxtapositions – between gentrified and neglected locations, between historical wealth and increasing socioeconomic hardship – flow through Seven Hills, much as the River Avon flows through the city of Bristol. By tracing this river’s path through the thriving city centre to the suburbs where the cost of living crisis rages, Hoare creates a portrait of a place divided by far more than the opinions of its inhabitants. “It’s my personal response to a city I love so much,” Hoare says. “But it’s important to show the other side of Bristol, the side which goes against the preconception of the city.”
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