England is a funny place and not always in the good sense of the word. Strangely singular and intriguing, full of their own quirks, they are the equivalent of inside jokes - nobody really understands them apart from the people involved. The Internet is full of videos with people, mostly Americans, reacting to English culture — try to explain to them that there is a cheese-rolling festival. One might think it’s a metaphor but the truth of the matter is it’s exactly what it sounds like — a large lump of Double Gloucester cheese is rolled down a hill and the participants tumble down chasing it. What’s the point you may wonder? Milk or tea first? Hang on, does anyone else use milk in their tea apart from the English?
National oddities and peculiarities were the starting point for Edward Thompson’s project In-A-Gadda-Da-England. Born and bred in the U.K., he offers his viewers the perspective of an insider who had spend his whole life surrounded by British culture, yet, nevertheless, it still manages to capture his attention with its fascinatingly strange aspects. Some, like putting milk in your tea, Miss Faversham beauty pageant, or farm rescued chicken in a jumper are just a bit of harmless fun. There is, however, a darker side to English exceptionalism. Who would tattoo St. George slaying the dragon on their back, albeit not in great detail? There is a slight mystery to the photograph as we cannot see the person’s face, but it’s easy to infer that he’s a young lad surrounded by his peers, some draped in St. George’s Cross, the English flag. Are they proud patriots or ideological nationalists-to-be, relishing the past of might and glory which the British Empire once was?
In another picture, we see Nigel Farage and Anne Widdecombe gloating together with their colleagues from what once was The Brexit Party. Hindsight is a powerful thing - back in 2016 when the referendum for the UK’s membership of the European Union was held, not many people believed it would happen. Even when Leave won, there was a period of limbo, which lasted for a few years, when it looked like Brexit was virtually impossible to “get done”. Perhaps at the time of taking the image, its connotation was completely different, but we’re in 2021 now — the UK is no longer a member of the European Union with the long-term consequences still largely unknown and these are the dangerous architects of this reckless project. The image is even more powerful, and I would argue one for the future history books, because of the writing on the wall. Is what they have done really “good”, and, if so, who would benefit most? The average Joe or politicians and oligarchs for whom the EU had been a thorn in the eyes for many years? I suppose only time will tell.
— foreword by Zak R. Dimitrov
For 20 years I've worked as a documentary photographer.
I've photographed everyday life in England, predominantly in Kent, but also around the country. Looking back over the photographs certain themes have revealed themselves: nostalgia, the rise of nationalism, the bizarre, protest, moments of serendipity with strangers and the sublime of the everyday.
Now after four years spent editing down thousands of photographs, ruminating on sequencing, layout and design, the book is ready to be made.
These photographs are largely unseen although you might have seen some of the work over the years in National Geographic Magazine, The Guardian Weekend Magazine, The Telegraph Magazine, Newsweek Japan et al. Most recently the work won a Sony World Photo Award in 2019 and some of the work from the series was exhibited at Somerset House, London.
At the time of photographing I was drawn to subjects, events and issues that interested me. There was no way of knowing that a number of the themes were also factors that ultimately contributed to Brexit, the U.K leaving the European Union in 2021.