In 2015 I spent time photographing Knowle West, a neighbourhood of around 12,000 residents on the southern edge of Bristol, which was created in the 1930’s following slum clearances in the city centre. The workers who built this pioneering new community had a nickname for the estate - “5,000 island forest”, referring to the fact they were building 5,000 homes surrounded by forest. Sitting on a hill, Knowle West retains a sense of separation from the city today, but that pioneering spirit continues with strong familiar and social networks built up over years that offer its community a strong sense of identity, and often practical solutions and everyday support.
I was curious to see what happens below the surface and just around the corner in places and communities that are generally considered not at “the centre of things” - geographically, socially or economically.
This project enabled me to mediate my engagement and interaction with Knowle West’s community to create an authentic record of my interactions and experiences.
During the creation of this work, I witnessed a matriarchal community structure and other formal and informal systems of power that lay beyond party politics.
This work was commissioned by Knowle West Media Centre following my first place at the South West Graduate Photography Prize 2014 and culminated in my first solo exhibition.
The exhibition acted as the literal backdrop to a community political hustings event taking place on the opening night.
Many of the subjects I photographed were in attendance to view my photographs and had an involvement in discussions with Bristol’s politicians about the area's future.