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Chloe Dewe Mathews

Chloe Dewe Mathews

London

2011

Chloe Dewe Mathews, an award winning photographer commissioned to make a new piece of work for the Brighton Photo Biennial 2014 has chosen her favourite photos from the collection as part of a collaborative online event.

"When working abroad, I am frequently asked, “What is England like?” and although the question comes time and time again, I still find it difficult to answer. “We have excellent Indian food!” is my response, but as this is often met with confusion, I turn to our pubs. They are what I miss when I’m away, that very specific way of being not in a bar, not in a house, but in a pub. From afar, time collapses and all the collected memories of good times spent in pubs with friends are fused into one. Peter Chrisp’s photos absolutely embody this feeling, with the likeable young man Inside the Dover Castle offering up a pint glass in a wood paneled booth and then bathed in the warm, end-of-day light in Relaxing on the Palace Pier. These are the photographic equivalent of the old Bisto slogan “aah Bisto” or the adverts for Bernard Matthews turkey drummers, “It’s great to be home, Mum”. They encourage (dare I say it) a spot of nostalgia but they are also an important document of our country.

It is through browsing the Brighton and Hove Photographic Collection that I am reminded what England is like. Of course it is not an encyclopedic collection; it is gathered from different photographers at different times, with more content on some subjects than others, but that perhaps is its charm. We all read what we want into the photographs anyway. We tease out narratives, in my case focusing on the idiosyncratic rituals like Morris dancers on May Day (flashed into lurid colour) and sheepdog trials in Ovingdean. How could I resist Sarah Palmist’s caravan? The photograph shows her keen self-promotion, with boards announcing “This lady has read the hands of many famous people, stars of film TV”, she is “simply the best”, but Sarah is nowhere to be seen. Friends play around On the Palace Pier in 1984, photographing their distorted bodies in the hall of mirrors and the laughter of two men dancing with mannequins is almost tangible. Then across town, many years later, a shivering carpet of flowers has grown between the lanes of the Lewes Road and the cars trundle on, oblivious.

These are the photos that I would have bought had I been rifling through boxes of old pictures at a jumble sale. I have little or no personal connection with them, and yet they speak to me. They spark something in my imagination and when put together they become more than the sum of their parts: it becomes not about single images but about how they relate to one another. I have made a story with these images – you would make another."

Chloe Dewe Mathews (b. 1982) is based in London. After studying fine art at Camberwell College of Arts and the University of Oxford, she worked in the feature film industry before dedicating herself to photography.

Her work is internationally recognised, with solo exhibitions at the Tate Modern and the Irish Museum of Modern Art and editorial features in the Guardian, Sunday Times and Le Monde. Public and private collections have acquired her work, such as the British Council Art Collection and The National Library of Wales. Chloe’s first monograph, Shot at Dawn, was published by Ivorypress in 2014.

Her awards include the British Journal of Photography International Photography Award, the Julia Margaret Cameron New Talent Award and the Flash Forward Emerging Photographer’s Award. Her nominations include the Prix Pictet, the London Photography Award the MACK First Book Award.

Chloe is currently the Robert Gardner Fellow in Photography at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University. Her new work for Brighton Photo Biennial 2014 will be on show at the Jubilee Library, opening on Friday 3 October 2014.