Photographer Laura Pannack writes about her current Multistory commission “The Cracker”.
“I’ve wanted to work with Multistory for years ever since I heard great things from Susan Meiselas and Alex Nelson. The charity commissions artists to embark on projects in Sandwell and Dudley and offer support in working within the local community to explore themes of the artists’ choice. My quest to work in prisons intrigued me to explore some ideas I’ve been sitting on for years but the charity were keen to focus on something different. My undying passion for working with young people seemed to fit this project well. As with any venture I had concerns; a limited budget, a potentially bland environment and an unattainable subject matter. However during my recce I discovered a place that captivated me. This project is relentlessly difficult but I am embracing the challenges and the team have been incredibly supportive.
“The Cracker” (working title)
A vast wasteland stands between the two estates. ‘Tibby’; is a cul de sac of residential houses that curls around a small playground. Kids push prams with their hands high above their heads or zip past on chunky bikes. Through a narrow alleyway you enter the Cracker; rolling grass lined with blackberries and stinging nettles. Motorbikes, peds and quads bark loudly everyday and at all times. The boys race them until they burn out, perfecting the art of the wheelie. Horses are usually kept in the back gardens or local stables and are just as popular. The girls nestle around small fires despite the baking summer sun. On my second trip I discovered an entirely black Cracker, sporting the occasional patch of grass that had escaped a burning. On the adjacent side lies ‘The Lost City Estate’. Most of the boys meet at Jack Barrett’s bars (a metal fence that lies to the opening of the field). They perch and exchange stories, cigarettes and zoots alight, referring to each other affectionately as ‘Mush.’
I‘m drawn to this area for it’s tight knit community; everyone knows each other. The name ‘The Lost City’ derives from an obvious observation. With no entertainment and a lack of role models some of these young people do feel lost. The police battle against them. I want to explore the friendships, the unique language and tradition of the area and the characters that for me, should not be lost or ignored. I’ll be sharing more images from this project as it develops. I’m still figuring out what is grabbing me, for the moment I am trying to capture the place, the people and essence of this community.”