Photographing a lesser-known corner of England and its people
In the cinematic photo book 'Love Bites', Tim Richmond studies one of Britain's coastal pockets.
To create his 2015 book Last Best Hiding Place, photographer Tim Richmond spent seven summers driving across the American West. While visually rich with stories, these long stretches ultimately shaped his new book's far more compact geography along South West England's coast. "Deciding the perimeters was important," he says, of Love Bites, a new book published by Loose Joints. "It started by focusing on a small, 20-mile section of the coast. I purposely did this as an artificial boundary in order to change the way I was working."
"My projects don't start as conceptual envelopes; it's more of an evolution – being out with a camera and noticing things," Tim tells me, speaking over Zoom from his home in Colorado, where he moved last April. "As time goes by, there [becomes] a project." In the case of Love Bites, it wasn't until about halfway through making it that he recognised the significance of the story. Living in Somerset at the time, following his American series, finding a subject had become a struggle, and the scenery was just "a little bit too bucolic", until he began taking short trips to towns like Weston-super-Mare and Minehead.
"It's an area of the country that hasn't been well documented in terms of the canon of photography,” Tim explains. “There are certain areas in Britain where that is not the case, places like the North East, with Chris Killip; the Welsh Valleys too — this little section is not." Tim's move to the States similarly heightened the gravity of the six-year project. "Even though it was sometimes tough love, it was a distinct tribute to people and places of that area that I genuinely really liked." The book opens with a short tribute: "To a small section of the Bristol Channel — a love letter".
In limiting the project's geographical area, Tim was able to return to people and places multiple times, meaning he was privy to social and industrial changes, as well as personal feedback. "It's interesting when you're working in a place that you live; you have a different sense of responsibility. It doesn't mean that you change the way that you photograph, but you have to face up to the fact that you may not be representing your subjects the way that they like, and that's okay. I think it's quite an honest way to work, because then you have to take criticism, you have to stand by the work. That's a different dynamic to being on the road — you're going to see your subjects again."
Regularly shooting when it was overcast or rainy — "I was interested in that colour palette" — Tim's images, a mix of landscapes and portraits featuring food banks and hotel lobbies, highlight the increased strain brought about by the Conservative government. "Even though this is a tiny area, it's containing a huge amount of ingredients that really act as a slight microcosm for the bigger picture across the UK at that time, and still currently, [with] some of the issues concerned," he says. Despite the relationship between his pictures and the Tory policies, he explains there was never a conscious effort on his part to make political work. "It's just literally holding a mirror up to what's going on in different areas."
There’s a commonality between the photographs in Love Bites and Last Best Hiding Place, not only in the hangover from austerity but also in the way Tim shoots people. "I think [there is a theme], but I'd like to think it's not fixed, that it could be a moveable feast," he says. "One thing I do, though, is not have people look at the camera. My influences come from cinema, so it's like cinema stills you're investing in as a viewer, in the sense of that private moment — you bring something of your own backstory to that thought. Sometimes with a portrait, there is this evident relationship between the photographer and the subject through eye contact, and it changes my reaction to a picture." Primarily informed by realist films, he references directors Andrea Arnold and Paweł Pawlikowski as key influences.
Quite wonderfully named, the title Love Bites came about after he met a man at a bus stop, drinking cider in the rain with a love bite visible on his neck. "I didn't have a camera at the time on me, but it just stuck as a good image to hold on to," Tim says. "The title is a strange thing; it's a two-parter, really. When the project was getting more mature, it occurred to me that it felt a bit like a love letter too."
‘Love Bites’ by Tim Richmond is published by Loose Joints
All images © Tim Richmond 2022 courtesy Loose Joints