In this photographic study, Marksteen plays with the traditional ideas people have of his hometown, Cheltenham. The aim was to express the beauty and character in everyone regardless of who they are.
The goal was to produce a balanced reflection of the town, primarily known in the UK as the location of GCHQ, the Government Communication Headquarters, the heartland of horse racing, and home to members of the upper classes. These perceived images do not align however with Marksteen’s impression of the town: “Cheltenham has a massive variety of people, culturally, economically and socially, the town contains the whole spectrum.”
Marksteen wanted to show the beauty and character in each person he met: “There is something special about everyone regardless of who they are. Some have stories to tell and others are in a hurry. Some of them are homeless, some are wealthy, some are more educated than others, but most of them are just ordinary, everyday, working people.”
The series was recently exhibited at Chapel Arts Gallery and featured in various bars and cafés around Cheltenham. After gaining permission from the local council, six giant posters on hoardings advertising the exhibition were also put up in the town centre.
At the private view, reactions of excitement filled the gallery as many of the subjects were viewing their portrait for the first time. During the evening, the BBC conducted a few, short interviews with the newly-famous Cheltonians, allowing them to share their stories and reflect on what being part of this diverse exhibition of people has meant for them.
The work has also been compiled into a catalogue, featuring all 48 large images that were exhibited as well as two pages that include multiple out takes. The Catalogue is Litho printed and comes in 6 different portrait covers. A limited set of 250 copies come in a cardboard envelope sleeve and include an A5 limited edition signed print.
The work was well received by both the subjects and the audiences. So popular was the style of portraiture, that local celebrities like Dom Jolly have asked for their portrait to be taken in this style. One surprising outcome of the project is the way it has highlighted the diversity of the population of this seemingly genteel middle-class town.
The exhibition was internationally acclaimed, and the work was featured in Leica Fotografie International magazine (November 2018). Together with this, it provoked a local discussion around mental health and enabled a group to be formed which included the Police Commissioner and Local Government to discuss the issue of mental wellbeing in young people.