As I look through this body of work I see passion. Not just for the practise of photography, but also for the scene that is being photographed. These are not fancy images giving the photographer the opportunity to say “look how cool I am”, rather they are a collection of strong individual stories contributing to the overall narrative.
Dawn Mander is a street photographer working in her beloved Blackpool. Dawn has been perfecting her craft and telling her story for nearly 15 years. Born and bred in this sometimes weird, but mostly wonderful northern town, Dawn’s message is simple - This is Blackpool. This is what I am proud of.
When asked about her relationship with the town, she says...
“I love my hometown. After traveling the world with an itinerant theatre and dance company, and starting my married life in Rome, I still convinced the family to come back to the north-west to live”.
The evident pull back to where she first entered the world is very much alive in her work. Whilst many photographers can become disheartened by photographing the same old same old, and their images can be damaged because of it, Dawn’s work suggests she is very much at home and happy when taking images of the land she is most familiar with.
“There is usually a story somewhere and the back streets are full of life waiting to be documented. I just keep moving. I rarely stand still when taking pictures, capturing many images mid-stride, and there's always something new”.
Looking through her photographs you will notice that there is a lot of red in them. Curious to understand, I asked if this was the colour Dawn was most attracted to, or the colour she feels best represents Blackpool.
“Ha! Red, yes it's Blackpool. It’s passion, it's danger and it really is a fabulous colour to photograph, rich in vibrancy”.
What I have always found most fascinating about long-term street and documentary photography is that there is a story to be told about a transition. How the people change, how the buildings change, how attitudes and opinions evolve; the photographer has a wonderful insight into all those changes, both the good and the bad. Dawn’s perspective is...
“There have been many improvements over the last few years and there are still many more needed. But like the rest of the country we are all in a difficult moment, and I do think Blackpool gets more than its fair share of bad publicity”.
I myself have visited Blackpool many times. Attracted by the lights, the roller coasters, the candy floss and the amusements - I have many fond memories of the place. I have never been to shoot street, however, and wanted to understand how Dawn is received when shooting in a place that attracts people from all across the UK.
“I tend to get away with it probably because of my age and the little grey haired old bird image. I do try to shoot without being noticed, although I never hide, and use a 28mm prime lens so I do get very close.
I work as a ninja and I try to be very fast. As I say, I am constantly moving, so I take the photograph and I am gone before they have even realised what has happened”.
For me, Dawn Mander is a photographer that encourages you to question your own relationship with the place in which you were born. She makes you think about how you can tap into that deep understanding of an environment that, no matter where you are in life, you will always refer to as home. There is a beautiful piece of photographic poetry in her work, and I personally find myself getting lost and mesmerised within her story.
When all is said and done, many of today’s photographers will have a host of “made for Instagram” style photos, that in time will have no context. Whereas photographers like Dawn will have a record of time and progression. A tale that is true to her and the place that she cares about the most.
Dawn, like her, wants you to love Blackpool. Her work speaks volumes as she achieves her creative objective. And when the viewer takes a moment to reflect on both her journey and the journey of Blackpool, what she wants you to know is...
“That Blackpool is the hardest working coastal town in the U.K. Don't believe all the negative press, it's a great place to visit”.
Thanks for reading
You can keep to date with Dawn by following her on her Instagram page.
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