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Black Country Stories

Black Country Stories

I feel I know Britain quite well. I have either visited or photographed in most major cities, from Plymouth to Wick in the far north of Scotland. I do have my blind spots and one was the Black Country, despite driving past this on the M6 on my journeys North on many occasions.

So when Emma Chetcuti from Multistory contacted me to ask if I might be interested in doing a photographic commission, in the borough of Sandwell, I could not say yes fast enough.

With it’s famous industrial past, there was going to be an inevitable sense of decline in the area, but what I had not counted on was the revitalisation that the many immigrant groups had brought to the area. There are active communities from many parts of the world: India, Pakistan of course, and the inevitable recent influx of Poles but also Somalis, West Indians and many others.

It is this vital mix that we decided to focus on and, at the same time, looking for examples of traditional Black Country life that were in good health. As the lid was slowly eased open, we realised the power of the material that we were unearthing.

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We agreed to compliment my photos with audio recording and also to think of building an archive of many extra photos, which will have a value in years to come. This could be something as simple as a billboard for a burger to a series of lions that adorn many houses in the Black Country.

So the fruits of our research are on display at The Public, and we hope to continue our work together as an ongoing project. The one thing that binds all these spoken words and photographs together is humour, the diversity and the single-minded quality of the Black Country folk. This is a celebration of your community.

Martin Parr, September 2010

The exhibition held at The Public, in West Bromwich, closed on the 23rd of January 2011.

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