For a long time I have been photographing England in a series of books and essays and for a long time I have wanted to photograph life in an English Country Estate. The country estate plays a huge part in the history of this country and is a staple of British fiction, both in novels and as film/TV productions. The latest being Downton Abbey, and probably the best known recent novel is Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day.
However, the focus is resolutely on the past, yet the estates continue into the 21st century. This medieval institution has legs. I have long thought that a photographic document, over a year, of the people and activities of one such estate, from the Lord of the Manor , the family , the servants, the tenants, the gamekeepers, the activities, sports, visitors, changing seasons, of an historic country estate, would be fascinating.
Covering 25,000 acres, Holkham, in north Norfolk, has been the home of the Earls of Leicester since it was built between 1734 and 1764 and still remains in the family and is a very successful estate, continuing the older traditions of shooting and farming while embracing the newer activities of running a caravan park and hosting pop festivals. There are numerous other businesses including a hotel and a pub, restaurants and selling specialist paints. The grounds of the Hall itself, surrounded by a 12 mile wall and home to herds of deer, is open to the public most of the year, though the Hall, which is the family home and custodian of a fine collect of art, is only open on certain days.
Tom and Polly Coke (pronounced Cook) are the current Lord and Lady of the Estate and I was allowed unprecedented access to the place and the family, to photograph “a year in the life”. I was not paid and was given editorial freedom as an Artist in Residence producing a body of work that is unique in providing an in-depth picture of a modern, family run, Great Estate. I am unaware of any other such work.
The book, A Place in the Country, was published on October 27th 2014 by Dewi Lewis Publishing Selling for £25 hardback
British, b. Burma 1947 Chris Steele-Perkins moved to England with his father at the age of two. He went to school at Christ’s Hospital. At the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, he studied psychology and worked for the student newspaper, graduating with honors in 1970 when he started working as a freelance photographer, moving to London in 1971. Apart from a trip to Bangladesh in 1973 he worked mainly in Britain in areas concerned with urban poverty and also sub-cultures. In 1975 he worked with EXIT, a collective dealing with social problems in British cities. This work culminated in the book Survival Programmes in 1982. He joined the Paris-based Viva agency in 1976. In 1979, he published his first solo book, The Teds. He also edited, and purchased the images for, The Arts Council of GB”s book, About 70 Photographs.
Steele-Perkins joined Magnum in 1979 and soon began working extensively in the developing world, in particular Africa, central America and Lebanon, as well as continuing to document Britain. He published, The Pleasure Principle, a work exploring Britain in the 80’s. In 1992 he published Afghanistan, the result of four trips over four years. After marrying his second wife, Miyako Yamada, he embarked on a long term photographic exploration of Japan publishing his first book of that work, Fuji, in 2000. A highly personal diary of 2001, Echoes, was published in 2003, and the second of his Japanese books, Tokyo Love Hello, was published in February 2007. In contrast a black and white study of English rural life, Northern Exposures, was published in summer 2007. He is publishing a 40 year perspective on England, “England, my England,” at the end of 2009. A study of British centenarians “Fading Light” was published in 2012.
Web site – chrissteeleperkins.com