A former mining town in North Warwickshire, where photographer John Spinks grew up, provides the inspiration for his new book, The New Village. Spinks left the village on the cusp of adulthood but began re-establishing a relationship with the place about fifteen years ago. He started looking at his hometown through the camera; seeing the landscape and its people through a new lens.
“Over the long period of time that it took to make the pictures, I became preoccupied with trying to describe a state of mind through photographing the village rather than making a book ‘about’ it,” Spinks explains. His photographs tell a dark story of a post-industrial village where the woods are uncared for and the people seem to be stuck in time, disconnected from the rest of the world.
The portraits are perhaps a little more unsettling than the vacant landscapes. His subjects are evidently aware that they are being photographed and are a part of the creative process, yet not a single one smiles, choosing instead to stare straight into the camera, distrustfully. Spinks says this may be because of the format he shoots in. “I never really give instructions beyond ‘keep as still as you can’,” he says. “I use a large format camera and that demands a certain amount of concentration on both our parts.”
When shown some of the photographs from this series, one of the locals asked Spinks if he hated the place. “Of course, I don’t. It’s important to remember that the book is a work of fiction,” he says, more symptomatic of his own melancholic temperament than anything else.