An Interview With: Ted Homer

 

Who are you and where did you study?

My name is Ted Homer and in 2013 i graduated from the University of the West of England with a BA in Photography. 

Could you introduce us to the project 'Little switzerland' ?

In the mid-nineteenth century the development of the railway network introduced a sudden influx of Victorian investors to the Shropshire market town of Church Stretton, attracted by it’s natural springs and mountainous setting. The use of extensive land clearance to emphasise the area’s imposing landscape, and the rapid development of picturesque hillside housing, led to the town being dubbed ‘Little Switzerland’. With this newfound affluence, Church Stretton evolved into a spa town with the intention of attracting the wealthy from nearby cities, such as Birmingham and Manchester, eager to escape the suffocating atmosphere of increasing industrialisation.

Over a century has passed in which time investment in the town has diminished and Church Stretton has undergone a quieter period of transition. This photographic project seeks to examine a place defined by a singular point in time, whilst reflecting on how historical traces continue to take material form.

How do you approach a new project?

After finding a subject matter that interests me, I spend a huge amount of time researching using books, maps and whatever else is helpful. I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to maps, I find them an incredibly helpful source of information as well as a great starting point when exploring and discovering new project ideas.

Visually the photographs are very coherent, besides the static clean framing, there is a quality of light that remains familiar througout the series. Is there a certain time of day you prefer to photograph.

I’ve always tried to take images as early in the day as possible. But I really just follow the weather, looking for it to be overcast with high clouds. I find the light in this weather is nice and even and creates very little contrast.

What interests you about the landscapes that frequent your projects?

Landscapes have always been the most interesting subject matter in photography, and I think this is for two reasons, firstly its because I have always had an interest geography and topography, and secondly they show certain narratives in a way that portraiture would struggle to. With a landscape you can use the architecture, land use or whatever lies within a scene to direct the viewer to the outcome you would like. And with my work focusing heavily on historic subjects, I find landscapes lend themselves to this subject matter with ease.

Could you tell us more about how the historical traces you mention that take material form?

Church Stretton’s history as a spa town means the towns architecture is of a certain style like many other spa towns of the victorian era. The buildings originally are designed with a a faux tudor style to them with wood detail painted black and steeply pitched roofs. Because of modern planning regulations in the uk many buildings built in the last 40 years need to copy this design in some way. Also the town has retained its name as a desirable location for leisure pursuits, which has meant the town has kept some of its historically purpose.

How long did the project take to complete?

The project was created during my final year at university, with the original idea of the project being conceived in the September and the work being completed in the following years spring.

You have achieved a remarkable quiteness in the series,  to the extent that when I imagine myself in the landscape depicted I struggle to fathom hearing much more than the wind. How do you feel this compares with the reality of Church Stretton today?

Church Stretton is a lot like most small towns in the UK in the sense that it is a much busier place than it used to be, with a major A road and a train line running by the town it has become a popular commuter town. But once you deviate from the centre of town and climb the hills or visit the surrounding areas, I can imagine the area hasn’t changed much in the last century.

You say that Church Stretton is a place defined by a single period of time. As this period of interest diminished how do you believe the town changed as a result?

The town has changed in terms of its modernity and is now a busier place to be, but in respects of the town’s DNA it has changed very little. It is still a touristy town where people visit to get away from the so-called ‘hardships’ of modern life. 

What are your plans for the future?

I’m currently just working on getting a handful of projects finished this year.

What would be your best advice to anyone graduating in the coming weeks?

Leaving the safety of university is hard, but the best advice I could give anyone is just keep taking photographs. Its very easy to stop as soon as you need to earn a living, but even if you work outside of the photography world just try and have a project or some form of personal on the go to keep yourself focused.