For over 15 years, John Spinks has been photographing the small mining village in North Warwickshire where he spent his childhood. He left the village aged 18 to pursue the study of photography, and in 2000, began the process of engaging with his past through his work.
Spinks’ large format colour photographs are both sober and beautiful, suggesting the possibility of an uncanny hidden narrative in both the landscape and its inhabitants.
The photographs are a melancholic meditation on the themes of belonging and identity, the images somehow familiar yet oddly unsettling. In both his portraits of the villagers - some of whom he has known since childhood - and the landscape that surrounds them, Spinks captures a brooding, intense quality, as through his lens we are granted intimate access to a guarded world.
Even though Spinks grew up within the confines of the village, his gaze is simultaneously that of a local and an outsider, reflecting his experiences as a child and the adult he became. Through his photographs, Spinks explores the darkness and light of his past through the present, articulating notions of a particular kind of Englishness.
“The rough, uncared-for woodlands that cluster around the built-up residential areas and council estates of post-war Britain are places where dreams and reality are intertwined. They are places of escape, of refuge, and of remnants, where the fears and frustrations of confined lives spill over and drain away. But, there amid the shadows and wandering imaginations, the darkness in people often lingers."
- Excerpt from included essay, 'What Are You Looking At' by David Chandler