At college, I started learning about Magnum photographers and read: ‘Magnum - 50 Years at The Front Line of History’ is a great overview of how Magnum came to be. ‘Blood and Champagne: The Life and Times of Robert Capa’ one of the founders of Magnum Agency is a great read. Sebastio Segado’s ‘Brazilian Gold Mine’ photo essay impacted me - the sea of humanity digging cheek by jowl in an open mine in Brazil. Salgado had been on another assignment in South America and stayed to shoot this self motivated story. As Neil Burgess, then Magnum Director writes ”Here was a virtuoso of photography. Salgado had used a complex palette of techniques and approaches: landscape, portraiture, still life, decisive moments and general views. He had captured images in the midst of violence and danger, and others at sensitive moments of quiet and reflection. It was a romantic, narrative work that engaged with its immediacy, but had not a drop of sentimentality. It was astonishing, an epic poem in photographic form”.
NEW AGE TRAVELLERS
In1985 the Wiltshire police violently smashed up the ‘Hippie Peace Convey’ that was attending a free festival opposite the Stonehenge site - known as the ‘Battle of Beanfield’. Thatcher's war on the traveller community culminated in the 1986 Public Order Act - which prohibited and gave police the power to break up 12 or more vehicles travelling together. Thatcher said at the time that she was ‘only too delighted to do anything we can to make life difficult for such things as hippie conveys’.
Taken from an oral history from the Brighton Museum: “The 1980s saw the rise of what became known in the media as the New Age Travelling community. Often ideologically motivated, travellers were anti-authoritarian and anti-establishment, believing in a more simple and communal way of life outside of mainstream consumer society. Part spiritual hippy and increasingly part Anarcho-Punk, travellers moved from festival to festival in the summer months, trying to live a more self-sufficient and environmentally friendly way of life”.
I bought my first medium format camera, a Bronica SQA-M. The medium format camera gave you a larger neg with more detail. I wanted to take this studio camera outside and make portraits on location. Whilst studying me and my friends were still living in our family homes, our friend Nick was the first to move out. We knew Nick from the local alternative music scene.
Nick (left) at our friends gig in Fleet around 1987/88
These images were taken a few years later around 1988/89. Nick was still young but got himself a caravan and set up with a community of 'New Age Travellers' on the outskirts of town in the surrounding countryside. In these quiet moments when they were not travelling around the country doing the festival circuit - I would drop in, hang out, drink some home brew cider and take some photos of Nick and his friends. I guess to the powers that be, people living a different way of life is a threat and something to be fearful about. In the summers of 1990/91 me and friends from Fleet end up raving in fields of Hampshire, Berkshire, Bath and Bristol - at free parties run by the travellers, but I’ll get into that in another time. I would love to find Nick again. It's been 30 odd years since I’ve seen him.
If you want to read some more about the New Age Travellers here’s some links:
Andy Worthington - The Battle of Beanfield
Oral history by the Brighton Museum
Tales of a new age traveller - Short Film
Until next time...
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