Through candid film and honest photography, Juliet Klottrup documents the rural youth of northern Britain

The UK-based photographer and filmmaker shares an exclusive look at her latest documentary, Youth of The Rural North.

Date
14 April 2021

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Youth is brief and oftentimes misrepresented, or at worst undocumented. Juliet Klottrup – a photographer and director who “grew up with Northern roots but a Southern postcode” – lenses this very notion in all of her endeavours. Her childhood existed amid a large family and, with her being the youngest, she used to observe her siblings’ lives play out in front of her, “before it was my turn,” she tells It’s Nice That. This, naturally, instilled an observational quality in this young and sentimental artist. In her spare time, for example, she’d preserve and record by logging boxes full of negatives, archiving the memories she’d enjoy with her friends and family. It wasn’t long until her curiosity about the world and its people started to materialise in creative projects, and thus begin a successful career in the arts industry.

Not only does Juliet now work as a freelance photographer and director, she’s also been part of Creative England/Natural Youth Theatre’s ShortFLIX scheme and has shot widely across fashion, documentary and music. Last year, notably, she was the winner of the Portrait of Britain 2020 and was shortlisted for The Portrait of Humanity award with the British Journal of Photography.

A consistent thread that runs throughout all of her artistic outlets is the quest to document youth in its purest and most honest form – an investigation that was provoked from a pivotal family event a few years back. After she and her family returned to the North after two years’ spent working, she’d packed up again to study illustration at university in Brighton. On her first day, however, her older brother sadly passed away. “All sense of order and the way I saw the world changed,” she explains. “I was made to acknowledge the impermanence and fleetingness of youth and life, so I wanted to document how this time in life looked or felt like for everyone else.”

This enquiry transpired into an abundance of impactful projects, with past pieces including Landscape of Teenagers – an immensely candid film that brings together snippets of teenagers, awkwardly and humbly standing before her camera. All but the gentle hum of bird song, traffic and typically grey British weather embellish this film, and that’s all it needs to let the teenage subjects and their honest mannerisms protrude through the frame. And now, most recently, Juliet has shared with It's Nice That an exclusive to her latest project, Youth of The Rural North. “When I returned home to Yorkshire after university, I really began to recognise the fragility or rural living,” she explains. “I was curious to understand what it is like to be young and living in rural communities in Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales.”

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Juliet Klottrup: Youth of the Rural North. William Dawson (Copyright © Juliet Klottrup, 2021)

Having not grown up in the area herself, Juliet was more than interested to learn more about these communities. “I had no predetermined ideas of what people would say when they reflected on their youth here,” she continues. Juliet explains how some parts of the local landscape have been untouched for generations, but as with many evolutionary modern locations, its heritage has been changing. “It is important to capture what rural life is like for today’s youth before the next generation.”

With a clear concept in mind, Juliet decided to proceed shooting everything herself, which includes the parallel photography series. She began researching old archive films about British life and started to notice how some were filmed on 1950s home cameras. This therefore had a large influence on the film’s format. “I wanted to create my own ‘archival’ piece with the limitations of shooting on a simple small 8mm camera and only take one,” she adds. “This turned out to be liberating and less intimidating for the sitter. All the footage was used and it was hard to decipher if it had been shot yesterday or 20 years ago.”

Within Youth of The Rural North, you’ll observe the lives and daily antics of various subjects, ranging from farmers to school leavers and all of those in between. Juliet embarked on the project with one main goal, and that was to document her subjects with honesty and to embark on a journey through meaningful conversation. “There was an unprompted appreciated for where they live, blissful stories of safe childhoods and their close communities, and I’d set them against a backdrop of dramatic landscapes,” she says, capturing their portrait only in serendipitous moments.

One of her subjects is William Dawson (aka William the shepherd) with whom she helped heard cows and gather sheep on her visit – “you’re not much use on a farm if you’re not willing to get stuck in!” Depicting William sat proudly atop his tractor, this picture was selected as the winning image of the Portrait of Britain 2020. In Juliet’s film, you’ll see him talking about “baling sunshine” – “I was there in the summer when they baled the hay and again in the bleak winder, as the bales were unwrapped. You could really smell the sunshine on the bale while the frozen rain blasted your face.”

Each and every subject within Youth of The Rural North tells a vital story; that of youth, community, work and tradition. It’s enlightening for many to see another way of life, perhaps one that you may not have known much about before digesting this project. “I hope it’s met with respect and understanding and gives the audience a true appreciation of this way of living, as these experiences will be unfamiliar to city-centric childhood,” she says of her goals about the project. “I’ve heard that those featured in the film and from people who have grown up in the areas and since moved away, without exception, there was a longing and desire to be back home. I think beauty hides in plain sight; each story is worth listening to over and over again.”

GalleryJuliet Klottrup: Youth of the Rural North (Copyright © Juliet Klottrup, 2021)

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Paddy with Horse

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Mist Over

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Ben

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Joseph

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Left

Sonny, Max and George

Right

Throw Gill

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Throw Gill

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.

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