Bringing "This England" into the Digital Era

With the first proper episode of Resolution under our belt, I took the opportunity this week to catch up with long-time professional portrait photographer Richard Battye by recording a conversation with him at his studio in Birmingham's Custard Factory. Richard's business River Studio has been a fixture there since the early 1990s, with a wide variety of commercial and fashion clients on its books, as well as being a busy studio location.

One of Richard's most acclaimed personal projects was "This England", which toured for three-and-a-half years at the turn of the century, and which constitutes a fascinating glimpse into British subculture and fashion. A decade later Richard is beginning to revisit some of the individuals and subcultures that formed a part of the body of work, finding them both affected by the passing of time and yet remarkably familiar.

This seems to me like the perfect time to both document some of the stories around the original project, and to consider how broader cultural changes—and changes in the landscape of photography itself—have affected Richard's approach to the subjects and to the process of building and touring a body of work. There's much to address of course; digital photography's rise, the new role of film, online image sharing, ink-jet printing, iPads and digital display technologies have all developed in the ten years since "This England" was produced, and any follow-up project will be transformed by these changes. Still, there's an underlying ethos and resilient heart to Richard's portraiture which, for me, makes "This England II" more relevant, and more necessary than ever.