Cheltenham folk

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.”

“It’s nice to have a good reflection of the diversity in Cheltenham.”

Michael Gardiner

‘Cheltenham Folk’ Marksteen interview on BBC Gloucestershire Radio

“They’re really natural, there’s no Photoshop. In this day and age everyone’s getting Photoshopped – they are not realistic these pictures – whereas these, they are raw. It is what it is.”

Emma Durrant

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.”

At the private view, reactions of excitement filled the gallery as many of the subjects were viewing their portrait for the first time.

The series was exhibited at Chapel Arts Gallery in Cheltenham and featured in various bars and cafés around the town. After gaining permission from the local council, six giant posters on hoardings advertising the exhibition were also put up in the town centre.

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 project was featured in LFI, the magazine showcasing the best in Leica photography

“Adamson’s goal was to create a balanced picture of his hometown. His portraits capture the town’s residents and show how it is full of a diverse group of people, culturally, economically, and socially. With good lighting and a keen eye, he was able to photograph genuine and unposed moments. He was able to show something unique about every subject.”