The book ‘English Journey’ by the Bradford author J. B. Priestley was published in 1934 it was an account of his travels across England. It’s a study of contemporary England at the time and its influence had reached far beyond the literary world. It’s claimed that it has influenced writers, such as George Orwell, but also photographers like Bill Brandt and even some of the policies of the 1945 Labour government. John Angerson’s English Journey embraces the spirit of the book and is guided by its subtitle — “Being a rambling but truthful account of what one man saw, and heard, and felt, and thought during a journey through England.” The project looks at the homogenisation and so-called Americanisation of society that seems to have found its way all across England.
A Western Daily Press newspaper headline reading “Don’t Sacrifice Any More Lives” is juxtaposed with the picture of a car carrying a coffin draped in the Union Jack; A Liverpool football programme with players in action side by side with a green football pitch and its halfway line in the middle; A touring England map game with a red car on its cover together with a photograph of a red car being built in the Nissan car plant; Angerson cleverly explores the power of photography and the way we read images not as a single entity but depending on context. Two images side by side create a fascinating relationship, a push and pull of sorts in which one informs the reading of the other and vice versa.
“The England I discovered is manufacturing less and has become highly reliant on technology. Celebrity culture and its media stronghold are fast becoming a national obsession. The perceived threat of global terrorism means new laws have been created curtailing the freedom to photograph in public places and PR departments are increasingly stringent as to how their organisations are portrayed.”
Many changes have occurred throughout the world since Priestley’s book was published. Globalisation, the cult of the celebrity, social media and technology and many more that it would have been difficult for him to predict or anticipate what England of the 21st century would look like.
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