Chris Hoare is a photographer born and bred in Bristol. He studied in his hometown (on a foundation course, which counts Jonas Bendiksen and Vanessa Winship among its alumni, and later on an MA) and every work he’s produced, excluding one large body of work made in Australia, has been about the city.
Much of Chris’ work is interested in areas of society that he feels are overlooked, exploring themes of identity and place. “I’m always excited by the way [photography] gives you a reason to talk to people, to ask questions and generally be nosey, even if it sometimes feels hard,” he tells It’s Nice That. “The interactions with people when making work can be quick or they can last for hours and it doesn’t necessarily dictate the quality of the photograph. I like this idea of luck.” It’s from these interactions that Chris builds stories – based off feelings, not facts, “piecing together sequences and ideas” that represent how he feels about a particular subject or place.
While working at the Martin Parr Foundation and also lecturing at Coventry University, Chris works on personal projects slowly, chipping away at a few ideas or themes concurrently. “I struggle to come up with ideas from my desk,” he explains. “I prefer to be out walking around with my camera and seeing what I can find, then seeing where I can go once I’ve found something worth following.”
A body of work that he’s been working on for a while now is “I’ll be there with a smile”, a long-term photographic meditation on one street. It’s a street which, like many all over the UK, has a “rich industrial history which is now slowly and quietly undergoing a makeover”. The series documents this street, which is called East Street and is a stone’s throw from Bristol’s centre, an area where property prices are soaring. Chris captures the changes happening in front of his lens.
“What’s most interesting about the place is not this incoming change, but in fact, the way history has shaped the area and what is surely going to be left behind,” Chris says. “Anyone who knows East Street will be able to vouch for its distinctive character and through my research, it’s become clear that there has always been a distinctive character there, or at least since the industrialisation of the city. This is what I have attempted to capture – it’s the people that make the area a special place.” As a result, “I’ll be there with a smile” is largely made up of portraits, immortalising East Street’s residents, rooted in the traditions of street photographers like Garry Winogrand or Joel Meyerowitz.
It’s a series which feels from another time, a reading which is altogether purposeful on Chris’ part. In order to emphasise the changes that are happening, but also the elements that will forever remain the same, the photographer homes in on “anything in and around the street that feels like it crosses the time periods mentioned, such as factories or the people who have experienced the street then and now.” In turn, Chris’ work takes on a certain weight and responsibility, representing not only East Street but its counterparts all over the country that are experiencing the same rapid changes, and the people finding themselves forced out of their homes.
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