J A Mortram

Death, life, communication and how they bind us together.

As winter descended upon us last year, two of my closest friends, that I’d known for many years and documented throughout that time, passed away.

In the following months, I realised how much Stuart and Eugene’s deaths had effected me. A slick, cloying, clotting depression, consuming shadow, so clever, creeping unnoticed until you realise, it’s permeated everything. It’s taken most of this year to find a way through.

I’ve found the way I see photographs, now, has been changed, elevated, a new appreciation, deeper, richer, looking back, asides all the images I was able to make with them, all the stories and memories that were shared, so selflessly with me, these precious gifts were trumped by one final gift, a greater understanding of the lives within photographs, all photographs.

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Stuart.

My first lesson in this, was my old friend W.H. passing away, way back when I borrowed cameras and first began ‘Small Town Inertia‘.

Death, as much a part of life as living, is one of the mountains in life to comprehend, though it’s seemingly insurmountable, the vastness of it, almost abstract, impossible.

W.H. and my experience of photographing him, unknowing as I was, that cancer was already raging a war within him, taught me that photographs, documentary, listening and creating a place for testimony to exist, is the way I could return the gifts of the truths and lives shared so willingly, selflessly with me, and with you.

The lives we lead, experiences shared, stories given, stories received, these are the gold within life, the glue that binds communities together, communication.

Without communication, without listening and sharing with one another, we have nothing, nothing. We don’t advance, singularly, collectively, as a species, by ignoring our fellow man’s plight, we can, and must, advance by being open, by aiding communication, endorsing it, championing it, fighting for it. Communication, doorway to empathy, gateway to common ground.

Soon after Small Town Inertia began to grow, from such a small seed of an idea, a desire, I began to understand that a primary function of photography, of documentary might be, and contrary to the white noise narcissism of documenting the self and consumerism, a way to inform and inspire individuals, to kick start community interaction and action, to get an avalanche of change in motion, from the humble beginnings of a single, fragile, snowflake.

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David.

“I live in Scarning near Dereham and I like some of the above have seen David and his mum in the town, I had heard about his mums passing and have seen David on the odd time around the town, but not for a while , I’ve always felt I wanted to speak to him but he wouldn’t know me so didn’t see the point, but now I do and next time I see him will definitely say hello and if I can help him in anyway I will. What a very sad story and to think this is going on in Dereham too is just so sad xx”

This comment, and many others, were left by members of my local community, the place where I shoot all of the stories for  Small Town Inertia, upon the story ‘Market Town : David : The long goodbye‘. Knowing that the seed, David’s amazing, humbling and very real giving, to us, his story, is returned to him, with love and greater understanding, from those around him, is all I believe about photography, in action.

I’ve been mailed gifts for David, from all corners of our planet this year, it’s quite the most beautiful event to witness. David, is, as one might imagine, thrilled. To counter the bullying, abandonment and torment he has had to endure at the hands of government, professional services and some areas of our local community, there’s a situation, now, where many people approach David, explain they have been moved by  his story, and felt the need to reach out and speak with him and help in any way they might be able.

Using photography as a seed, one seed of many available to us, we can re-grow the tight bonds of community that have been so eroded over the last 30 years, that power, we have had all along, as all we really need to do, each and all of us, is be aware and do something, anything, for those around us. Sustained compassion and care for those around us, ties us together, binds us, unites us.

Now is not a time to turn eyes away, now is the time for one and all to pull together, to unite, to understand differences, to appreciate them, to overcome age old fears and reinforced stereotypes, fears peddled and force fed to us, whilst we wait, growing in equal measures apathetic and frustrated,  for top down change, we miss the every day chance to take action, both in and from ourselves, and collectively, the whole of humanity.

We have a union already, in every village, city, town, nation, globally, a commonality, be it our ‪‎global community‬ or ‪‎our local community‬, we have power to make change, 2015, is ours for the making and the taking, for giving and for sharing.

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Eugene.

Back in May, I took the decision to cease releasing stories monthly, and to allow them ever more space to grow organically, broader in depth, enabling them to breathe and be, more. Whilst shooting stills and recording interviews, I’ve also been recording hours of filmed footage, multi media is such a great opportunity, presenting and sharing an immersive and inclusive experience for audience, but also for those sharing their lives.

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The film I’ve been making with Carl, is close to completion now, and should be ready for release in January.

My working with Carl will not cease upon completion of this film, though, as with all the people that share via Small Town Inertia, this is just a continuation of a long relationship, life is not, or rather, trying to relay an experience of life, is no fleeting endeavour, it’s a long form, long time commitment, and one I am forever humbled to be a part of, for all stories, communication and sharing is a great exchange, rooted, steeped in the very real act of collaboration.

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Death, life, communication and how they bind us together.