For the last two years, ever since the Brexit vote, Robin Maddock has been driving up and down England taking photographs for a forthcoming book. “I’d much rather be camping out in the middle of nowhere, riding my bike around,” he says. “But as the project went on it became more and more obvious that it’s people you need need if you’re trying to tell a story about a country.”
Maddock’s untitled book on England is due to be published on 29 March next year, the day the UK officially leaves the EU. But although both the beginning and end of his project correlates with Brexit, Maddock says he came up with the concept a long time ago. “I was always going to do a book on England, Brexit just made me concentrate on it full time,” he explains. “I think I’m bringing it out on that date because I need to have a cut-off point. The content of the pictures is not in relation to Brexit, the content of the photographer’s mind is, but the reality of life continues in quite a different way to the one in which politics draws it.”
Next weekend Maddock will be exhibiting his work at a tattoo parlour as part of the Brighton Photo Biennial, which is returning for the eighth time with the theme A New Europe. Maddock’s exhibition is titled Nothing We Can’t Fix by Running Away, a reference to the American TV show Bored to Death which featured a struggling writer moonlighting as a private detective. The exhibition includes 100 photographs from not just the England project, but “everything that’s relevant from the last 20 years”, making it his biggest show to date. “For me, it sums up some things about my life but also this time in England, so it has a double meaning,” he says.
Over the years, Maddock’s approach to photography has taken new turns. “I definitely talk to people a lot more than I used to, and I try to spend as much time as I can with them,” he says, explaining that he uses a range of equipment including medium and large format cameras, which he believes lend themselves to portraiture. “My style is really now a mixture of different approaches, all different speeds and different ways of capturing a country,” he adds. “I found that quite important.”
More recently Maddock has been using found images and collages in his work, after realising that some of his photographs hadn’t described the event or person he was showing quite well enough. “I’d come back to those photographs and start collaging them, in order to include as much information as possible, and present it in as exciting and new way as possible.
“I’m usually looking for things that surprise me, things that have a deeper significance, I suppose – a sense of humour,” he adds. “I’m always open to what happens in life, because it tends to be more interesting than anything you can imagine.”