J A Mortram

A month.

It’s been quite the month.

You never appreciate the calm waters without jumping, or being thrown, into the rapids from time to time. At the start of the month I was preparing for a coming exhibition at Camden Image Gallery, finishing interviews with a couple of magazines and a feature with Huck magazine, then, my P.C. blew up.

These things happen, and when you live and shoot hand to mouth, it’d be easy to be overwhelmed with the situation, or, take it as a lesson in improvisation. Some juggling, plate spinning and help from family, friends (The same thing, truly!) the P.C. was in the shop being repaired and back and up and running in seven days, my vast thanks to Breckland Computer Services, especially Wayne, for working fast magic.

Back on-line I was able to complete the backlog (Thanks to the very understanding editorial staff at Huck) and continued discussing the logistics of the coming exhibition at Camden Image Gallery, with the wonderful William and Elena. A little word on working with gallery staff, curators, editors, trust them, listen to them, work with, not against. They know their stuff.

Jim Mortram Private View Invitation

Next on the to-do list, printing.

I love printing, and I love prints, along with books, for me, are the true home for a photograph, the tactile sensation, the closeness, the reality. Whenever I make a print, I start every image from the base RAW file and re-work, much as one might with a negative, creating a unique image every time. I’m certain I had this way of working passed on to me by watching my father, working up negatives in the kitchen when I was a child.

Huge thanks to Julie (aCurator the best on-line resource for photography, fact.) and to Heidi (Hahnemühle) for all your help, you’re both responsible for this exhibition being able to take place at all.

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David, at home, 2014. 

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Si, 2014.

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Tilney1, at home, 2014.

For many, a great many, reasons, I don’t, never could nor would, see this exhibition (Or any!) as ‘my’ show, instead, I always feel, it’s ours.

Here’s why. It takes many converging lives and much community effort for Small Town Inertia to exist at all. I consider all, vital. From the people within the photographs, whom so bravely, passionately give their time and their heart and soul to sharing,  to the audience, to supporters, sharers, bloggers, gallery workers and owners, editors, every tweet, every social media share, strip it all down, we’re just human beings, all greasing the wheels for these stories to have life, to take flight and soar, to share.

So, all, this show is yours, it’s ours, it’s a communal event, a community event, and an example of what folk can do when we pull in the same direction versus tearing one another apart.

Personally, I feel, continuously indebted to all, my role, it’s not complicated, just a conduit, making photographs, writing, working on the stories, it’s just who I am, more than what I do.

So, this show, it’s of and for all of us.

Most importantly, anything I can do, to steer the vital component, the stories and issues raised to a larger audience, I’ll always fight for, after all, that engagement, for us all, is the entire point of Small Town Inertia and I honestly believe that photography has never had the opportunity to do such important work, link us all, unify us all, as in the right now.

All the prints at the Camden Image Gallery exhibition are for sale (With full concessions to anyone unemployed, on benefits, a student or a pensioner) and the profits will be donated to two amazing organisations, Mind and Shelter.

Why?, because I believe photographs can and should change lives.

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I’m three quarters of the way through printing the exhibition now, so outside my carer duties at home, I’ve been able to continue work on the many stories I’m working on. A wonderful package from the US arrived thanks to Julie and Janette  Beckman, some signed copies of ‘Made in the UK‘ and some t-shirts.

Tilney1 (As I am also) are huge fans of Janette’s work and I was thrilled to take these gifts to Tilney1, who, as I, was thrilled. This is a great example of community pulling together, being the change they want to see, doing for one another, the joy this gave Tilney1, was real, so real, to witness events such as this, truly makes everything worthwhile.

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Tilney1, pointing to one of his favourite photographs within the pages of ‘Made in the UK’.

Now I am able to make the journey to the city every Saturday evening with the Peoples’ Picnic, week upon week, people are beginning to see ‘me’ and not the camera, trust enables, we get on first name terms and begin to share stories, begin to know one another. It’s my honour to document all the efforts of Karen, Dale, all the volunteers, and all the people that visit the Peoples’ Picnic.

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Grant being handed some food by one of the Peoples’ Picnic’s founders, Karen. July 2014.

Recent years have seen a dramatic rise in homelessness, usage of food banks tripling in twelve months, the bedroom tax and changes to the benefits system all conspiring to make life harder and harder for so many of our society. Karen, herself on health related benefits, created the citizen run project ‘The Peoples’ Picnic‘ with friends, banding together to distribute donated food to the communities homeless and needy.

It’s devastating to see how many people rely upon the free food, and are equally hungry for a little human kindness, refugees to a failing system. 

Karen : “We really see it as a way of enabling the community, any community not just ours, and helping together those around us. For everyone to have an opportunity to be proactive, to donate food, to help make the food, to help share it out, even if a donation is just a loaf of value bread it makes a hell of a difference, I can tell whomever made that donation ‘That loaf of bread you donated went on to help feed twelve people this evening!’ and it ends up making everyone feeling that little bit better about themselves and these days we can all do with a little of that!.”

“Please remember folks we run entirely on donations and if they are not coming in we are left funding things ourselves. 

No matter how small the donation it really does make a huge difference and helps so many.

As well as feeding those less fortunate we also help with food hampers for people in the community that are struggling and help with essential items for those making the transition from street to home.

So, please if you can spare anything, we really do put it to good use and if you are struggling yourself get in contact and we will see how we can help.”

Donations can be made here.

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Carl, sorting his laundry, 2014.

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Carl, winding his curtains to allow more air within his apartment. 2014.

Over the last six months I’ve been working with Carl for a coming story, and these last few months have been very difficult for Carl.

His benefits are under review, incidents of bullying in the streets have risen to an every day event, mostly at the hands of children and teenagers that he passes on the street as he makes the journey to and back from the supermarket.

The anniversary of his mother’s passing has hit very hard this year, compounded as his grandmother, who in many ways became Carl’s mother, has been diagnosed with cancer. 

The last image of this set, Carl received word from his uncle, his grandmother’s condition is progressively worsening and with a 100 mile round trip to visit her, the isolation and separation from his family, cut’s deep, the stress, worry and fear, are becoming almost unbearable.

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Full story and accompanying film, live mid September. 

I will also be making a new HopeMob fundraiser to acquire Carl a much needed orthopedic mattress, news for this when the story is live.

It’s a huge honour to have been asked to appear within the pages of Grant Scott‘s new book Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained and Limes : ImageBlacklie alongside many of my favourite contemporary photographers, my great thanks to all involved.

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Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained

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BLACKLIE limes • images

To close, and mirroring the pay it forwards culture that has always supported Small Town Inertia, I’m giving away a Nikon F3HP camera and lens.

I’ll keep this really simple, if you’re soon to be a first year photojournalism student, in the UK, broke (Be honest, please, if you have access to cash, don’t take this chance away from a peer that needs the help!.) all I am asking you do is mail me a single image before the end of September that for you, reflects your community, with some text, for context.

You can make the photograph with any tool, any device capable of making an image, do not worry RE image quality, use what you can get your hands on. Mail the single image and supporting text to : james.mortram@hotmail.co.uk and the image and text I feel nails it, you get the camera and you’ll deserve it!.

I’ll be attending the private view on the 28th August at Camden Image Gallery, it’s walk in so you don’t need a ticket, six till eight in the evening, it’ll be lovely to see you there.

Fight the good fight, for there is no other fight to be fought!.

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A month.