Brexit, we know you’re tired of everyone and their mum weighing in on the topic, but hear us out, this one’s interesting. Titled Whispering Blooms, a series by photographer Jack Orton aptly encapsulates the utopian (or dystopian, depending on which side of the fence you’re sitting) ideals that many have about the hotly-discussed, ever-extending Article 50, and the world that potentially awaits us on the other side.
“I started the project in early 2017 when Article 50 had not yet been invoked, no Brexit negotiations had started with the EU and Donald Trump had just begun his presidency,” Jack recalls. A time of uncertainty, Jack was living in Bournemouth, where he was studying and through research of New Towns, came across Poundbury. The town was built upon the principles of Prince Charles in 1993 and is an experimental urban extension on the outskirts of Dorchester. With the idea to give priority to people, instead of cars, it’s a strangely picturesque town with an air of The Truman Show about it thanks to its perfectly-designed rows of shops and houses.
“I immediately felt like the town was this great symbol of Brexit. These nostalgic and nationalistic views were becoming increasingly popular as Britain was struggling to find its cultural identity,” Jack continues. Viewing the town as “a model for a bizarre post-Brexit standard for future towns across Britain,” Jack traveled to Poundbury to document the streets and the people who inhabit them.
The photographs in Whispering Blooms feel oddly perfect, but it’s not too far from reality, Jack explains. “The town had this artificial quality to it, almost like I had stepped through the gates of Disneyland. Everything was so clean and orderly. The streets were almost desolate and there seemed to be a large population of retirees.”
Over several visits, Jack captured the pristine town in all its idealistic glory, focussing largely on architecture and the residents’ position among it. It’s an approach which typifies Jack’s practice which is concerned with people and place. “New towns, urban planning and radical architecture are where I begin each series,” he tells us. “From location to subjects, I also focus heavily on looking for individuals that almost resemble the locations ideals and beliefs to how they were built and planned.”
With Whispering Blooms, this culminates in a perfectly-composed set of images which visually embody the very concept Poundbury was built upon. Not a blade of grass or petal of blossom out of place, this eerie perfection is only furthered by Jack’s astute use of muted colours. “It certainly isn’t a true-to-life representation but it’s absolutely my cynical view on the world,” he adds.
When asked about any highlights from the trip, Jack concludes: “Meeting a retired Andrex puppy (the image with a couple sat a table).” And what a fitting retirement home for the quintessential puppy Poundbury is.
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