What these jottings reveal about ‘working-class culture’

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The domestic communications of a Somers Town couple are the subject of a lovely new book


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Jason Wilde
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Jason Wilde
‘The letters offer a unique insight into intimate family life’ Photo: Jason Wilde
Jason Wilde has made a name for himself photographing everyday life in the borough of Camden, where five generations of his family have lived, loved and worked.

His latest project, Vera & John, saw him collect and photograph 91 hand-written notes from Vera to her husband John, each scrawled a various points between 2005 and 2014. The couple have lived in Somers Town since they were married back in 1960, and moved in to their first home together: a ‘two room gas and electric’ in the Polygon Buildings, with a doorless washroom containing three toilets that was shared with five other homes on their landing.

In the last year, Jason has also photographed over four thousand local pavements, to form the background for each eventual image. The results have now been collated into a rather special coffee table book, that has just been released.

“By layering the photographs of notes over the photographs of paving stones, I’ve created a collection of still-life montages that offer a unique social record of intimate family life within London’s contemporary working class culture,” he says.

“These tender and sometimes abrupt messages outline Vera’s diverse roles as a woman, wife, mother, grandmother, friend, mentor and hub
of a complex and close-knit family. They also underscore John’s equally important and supportive roles, happy to let Vera take the lead and fill-in when needed.”

As well as being the subject of this rare and intimate look at day-to-day life in the heart of the borough, Vera and John are, in fact, Jason’s parents.

Jason Wilde
Jason Wilde
“The idea of making a project about my mum and dad came to me while visiting their home in 2005,” he tells us. “With no-one there I had a rummage through the fridge and food cupboards before making a nice cup of tea. Leaning against the wall next to the kettle was a note. I had been collecting notes since 2003 for a different project called ‘Silly Arse Broke It’ and realised that this single note outlining that evening’s dinner arrangements was a potential project.”

He took to crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to raise money to complete the project, and quickly surpassed his goal, netting over £9,000 in pre-orders to ensure printing of the book could commence.

You may have encountered Jason yourself, as his ongoing project Free Portrait Studio, where he sets up shop in various Camden locations, then takes candid come-as-you-are portraits of anyone who’d like to participate. In fact, we featured a selection of these lovely images on the cover of the very first print edition of our flagship title, Kentishtowner, back in 2013.

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You can get yours hands on a copy of Vera & John for £20 on his website, where you can also browse through Jason’s Camden Folk Tales projects.

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