Photojournalist Colin Moody worked as an art department assistant and graphic designer before focusing on photography. Since moving to Bristol nine years ago he has been photographing the city and its people. He spoke to Joe Melia about his new book, Stokes Croft and Montpelier.
What inspired you to pursue photography?
A sense that the moments happening all around us are important. As an adult I’ve been trying to figure out what it’s all about and it’s through observing people with a camera that I’ve come to try to do this.
What drew you to Stokes Croft and Montpelier?
The area has many interesting lives all intersecting. You walk over a piece of scrub land that looks like nothing but to others around you it’s their village green.
Stokes Croft is a place between places. Between the edge of the old city wall and the ‘outside’ world. It’s been at the edges of society forever and it loves it. Over 120 years ago they said it was a place with a great diversity. It certainly has kept that.
The street art scene here is legendary but if you spend time here you will realise it’s a community of cooperatives, squats, house shares, cafes, community centres, notice boards, glocal eco pioneers and word-of-mouth that keeps it working so well. Layers of people all sliding in and out of each other’s lives. Often people settle in to the rhythm of the thing they care about enough to show something of it all in how they move and dress. You literally never know what is round the next side road. Walls change, people change and this place pulses with energy.
There is much debate in the city about the gentrification of Stokes Croft. Adibah Iqbal, for instance, says, “Stokes Croft (has) lost its authenticity. It was like a culture was created and the creators were pushed out to make way for young artsy hipsters and hippies who were happy to consume the culture – but not connect with it.” Do you think the area has changed in the nine years you’ve been in Bristol?
Well… yes. And no. Certain big changes like the loss of artists space at Hamilton House has forced some to flee the area taking their creative spark with them for sure, but you can’t put this out. It will be a shame if all the artists have to live out side Bristol to afford rents. That’s a worry. And the only people who can become artists will be those who can afford the time to do so at leisure in the new cafes. Pubs closing and turning into coffee shops. It does on a big level eat into the cultural identity of a place. Wall space for street artists is going down or becoming less frenetic and more ‘normal’. But it’s got a buzz. And it will always be on the edge of the city centre, under the gaze and shadow of estates and have layers of human geology on show to explore every day. Yes people consume culture more via Instagram but it’s these same systems of communication that are leading to new voices getting out. New ideas being heard. It will change but demand to be heard all along the way. Artists particularly have helped bring it to international attention and it would be sad if like Hoxton in London it was just time to slide the creators out. They don’t want to go and are finding ways to hang on.
How would you describe Stokes Croft and Montpelier to someone who has never visited the areas?
It has a strong community and a huge tourist draw for its amazing street art. Yesterday’s tagger may be exhibiting at Hamilton house tomorrow as they step up to mural work. When you see it over time it feels like an urban forest of creativity. Creativity and ideas grow here. It’s a home to the homeless and a testing ground for a lot of really good ways of being.
What do you hope the book will achieve?
Community is a big word. It has been written large on the Carriageworks for years. My book is about people. Just 80 or so of the people I have met here. I hope it will make us think of what we can achieve together. I want it to inspire people from all walks of life to represent their city and their culture back to us and them by any way they can. By putting some of those people front and centre in the book is the way I know how to do that. Page by page all together.
In the introduction to the book you write, “connecting with new people and places is more important than ever”. Why do you think this is the case?
There is more to divide us than any time I can recall in my recent lifetime. It’s time to turn the tide away from looking at others as problems and instead see opportunities.
What can images do that words can’t?
Words play out over time. Photos in an instant can reveal what we are, where we are going, what we have lost and what we are holding on to. In a single face some times. We just have to notice.
Stokes Croft and Montpelier, by Colin Moody, is out now. For more information, visit www.thehistorypress.co.uk/publication/stokes-croft-and-montpelier/9780750987745/
Colin will be at Foyles in Cabot Circus on November 14 at 7.30pm discussing the book. For more information, visit https://www.foyles.co.uk/public/events/detail.aspx?eventid=3769
Read more: Stokes Croft’s Instagram King