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With the UK well known for the quintessential eccentricity within many of its traditions, we explore the work of photographer James Pearson-Howes.

Having spent the past eight years immersed in the mythical world of British folk culture, the London-based creative has become obsessed with the darker side of our islands’ ritualistic past; Morris dancers and wicker costumes, as well as customs native to single villages in the West Country.

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“I wanted to deliver folk to a younger audience,” he says, “and put my take on folk into a comprehensive set of images. I guess it’s important to me because above anything folk culture is about community; these events tie communities together and are still so vibrant and alive in Britain.”

James has sat at the sidelines of some of the most unusual occurrences in the country, whose names are as ambiguous as the activities they describe – Hunting of Earl Rone, The Haxey Hood and The Burry Man to name a few.

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“For a lot of the events you can only partake if you’re from the town or village, like the Obby Oss or Tar Barrels, but strangers are made more than welcome and can spectate. The best thing about all the folk events I’ve been to is the proximity at which you can view them – you can get your eyebrows burnt off at the Tar Barrels if you want or you might get trampled on by an Uppy at Uppies and Downies.”

It’s not just the events that capture James’s imagination; the people he finds there play a significant role too. One strand of his photography focuses on portraits of iconic British folk characters and the townspeople who stage these strange spectacles. “I wanted to get in close and focus on the people, as well as discovering and creating my own take on these intriguing events and customs.”

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James’s work has been bound together in three books called British Folk Trilogy, published by Ditto Press.

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