For those of you based outside of the UK the county of Essex might not carry much in the way of cultural associations, but to English people nationwide it’s a place-name that goes hand-in-hand with all things gaudy, brash and indulgent. Think tiny chihuahuas, Tango-orange fake tans and nightclubs covered from wall to ceiling in synthetic fur, and you’re getting close to the stereotype that society has so carefully constructed around Essex.
Fascinated by this kind of “cultural parody,” photographer Lucy Sparks has travelled through the county with camera in hand to create a series around the iconography we associate with Essex. From white leather car interiors, to golden-blonde hair extensions and faux-antique furniture, the series gives a comical, theatrical and brilliantly concise insight into the “taste and aesthetic stylings of one of Britain’s most phenomenal counties.”
She explains her reasons behind making the series brilliantly: "Since the 80s, Essex has become synonymous with cultural parody, and its nouveau riche have become known throughout the UK for having uncommonly gaudy taste. Just as the jokes about Essex were dying down, ITV released The Only Way is Essex, a reality TV program which gave the county a complex like never before, rejuvenating some of its oldest stereotypes and creating a new exciting sense of the hyperreal.
“Essexland takes you on an alluring journey through the county’s most fascinating nightclubs, bars and salons. Exploring the desires of a social group, which defines itself by indulgence and excess.”