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Greetings lovely friends, it's delightful to be with you once again. Something's been on my mind. If you compare these turbulent times with those of the last century, there might seem to be a curious shortage of protest songs. Whereas the civil rights movement, the anti-nuclear campaign, deindustrialisation and various wars produced a great many.

Why is this? The homogenisation of contemporary music? That nothing rhymes with Europe? Well, a couple of observations: first, while yesterday's passive weapon might have been the folk guitar, today's is the laptop. Stormzy is this era's Bob Dylan, perhaps. Second, a wispy, poetic folk song might capture macro ideas such as freedom and liberty, but does not satisfactorily convey complexities such as the many effects of austerity.
Photo by from Small Town Inertia by J A Mortram. Don't see it? Click to view in browser.
A moment of desperation, most always enhanced by the stress and pain of relentless loneliness.
Photo © J A Mortram, from Small Town Inertia
PHOTOGRAPHY AS PROTEST: I remember when I first saw the extraordinary work of Jim Mortram. His ten-year documentary project Small Town Inertia, all shot in close vicinity to his East Anglia home, is striking in its honesty and humanity. These aren't photos of faces. These are pictures of people; those with stories commonly overlooked.

Small Town Inertia is next exhibited at the Workers Gallery in Ynyshir, South Wales, from next week. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Small Town Inertia is available as a book, which I highly recommend. Individual prints are available if you message Jim directly. There's a good interview in the British Journal of Photography and Jim also features in the excellent Low Light Magazine that I received last week.

While Jim's style is raw and transparent, the body of work forms a chorus: that we must take notice of those on the fringes. Many of those in this community are amongst those most harshly affected by measures of austerity. One of Jim's prints hangs in my hallway so that I pass it often. I think of this like a placard: a protest against obscurity. ✊
🇬🇧 The UN went to one of the world's richest countries to report on poverty – this is what it found. A grim insight into the scale of British poverty from the World Economic Forum.

🎸 Tom Morello, the Last Rap-Rock God Standing: after Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave, what's Morello up to these days? The good news is it's exactly what you'd hope. This is also a good excuse to break out the best music video of all time.

🇺🇸 America’s Cities Are Unlivable. Blame Wealthy Liberals. California's cost of living is at odds with its progressive values, and excludes all but the wealthiest from basic standards.

🎧 Always In: wireless headphones are augmented reality devices. AirPods and similar formalise the detachment that screen-staring implies. A really interesting assessment of the creeping technological capturing of our sensory inputs.

🖌 How the world fell in love with manga. Once viewed as extreme, this Japanese form of graphic storytelling has become a global powerhouse.
Signals amongst noise: Camera ubiquity might have caused the death of photography as an artform, and yet particular photographs have continued to strike the souls of those who see them.

In 2015 when Turkish photojournalist Nilüfer Demir witnessed the body of a Kurdish toddler washed up on a beach, the image came to define the Syrian conflict that had already claimed over 220,000 lives. “There was nothing left to do for him. There was nothing left to bring him back to life,” Demir said. "I thought, this is the only way I can express the scream of his silent body."

But some events are much longer than a moment. Music-video director turned photographer turned environmentalist Nick Brandt produces provocative work on the destruction of Africa's natural habitats by human hands. Anastasia Vlasova has documented the women on the front line of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. And Alexandra Howland captured human stories within the battle of Mosul.

Curation is key to showing us what should feel familiar and what should feel different. The We, Women project seeks to combine photography with community engagement to tackle divisions in society head-on. Good Trouble magazine features the work of Seana Gavin documenting notorious sound system Spiral Tribe; while hedonistic, there's familiar parallels with contemporary social awareness movements such as Extinction Rebellion. And through Café Royal Books, curator Craig Atkinson publishes consistently strong works old and new.

It's just possible that the mass amateurisation of photography via smartphones, coupled with Instagram algorithms, might be good for photography as an act of protest, providing it can cut through. More than ever, photography has a chance to be about something: to be prejudiced and opinionated. 📸
Finally: How to Draw a Horse is a wonderful exploration of obsession. I'd better get cracking, as I expect you'll be proficient by next week. 🐴

Egad, we've made it to the bottom of the email. Do you know someone who likes interesting things? They can join in too at momorgan.com/blast. 💌

Have you found something I'd like? Is there something you'd like to see more of? Or anything else; I'd love to hear from you—hit reply! Meanwhile all back-issues are in the archive.

💥BLAST! · c/o relating.to ltd. · 160 City Road · London, EC1V 2NX · United Kingdom. Thanks, Jim.


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