Produce a small essay of 10 images that demonstrates your engagement with the lives, experiences and histories of your local community and its people.
I had thought about how to fulfil this assignment, the course suggests reading the assignment brief before starting the course and making notes about how I plan to go about the work. However I was stuck on how I should approach this. The village where I live is a bit of a sleeper, the village is very quiet through the day as people either go off to work or school elsewhere. I thought about the church, or the local village shop as a couple of places where the community come together and I think both would have worked. However I was struck by the possibility of engaging with something that was slightly different, village based, but also having a much wider contextual reference.
Ann and Carl Gross have lived in the village for a long time, they have had an allotment for about thirty five years and have grown vegetables and fruit on it for their own use and were in the habit of giving away their excess. The allotments are about 150′ X 50′ and Carl, who comes from farming stock in Michigan, has always been a keen gardener, though his profession is as a teacher. In 2001 they decided to occupy a stall at the first ‘Farmer’s Market’ in nearby Deddington and sell their produce, giving away all the proceeds to a couple of charities They had previously ‘adopted’ some children in Thailand by donating cash on a regular basis and sometime after decided that they would donate all their takings to one charity the ‘Thai Children’s Charity” (TCC). They also decided that they would go and visit the work that the charity does in Thailand, the children that they sponsor, to become more involved in activities that they were now somehow involved in. Carl has just come back from Thailand, a three week trip to Pattaya, Bangkok and then to the Burmese border region in the ‘golden triangle not far from Chiang Mai. The Gross’ do various charitable giving, most goes directly to the ‘TCC”, but they also directly sponsor some children, putting them through education, their current ‘adoptee’ is HIV positive, but is doing well and attending classes. Their work is noticed and during his last trip (Ann couldn’t go this time for domestic reasons) Carl attended a dinner with the UK Ambassador to Thailand at his residence in Bangkok (they pay all their own travel expenses as well as their direct sponsorship).
I will develop the story of the “Green Grossers” as I work with Ann and Carl leading up to the next Farmer’s Market – the fourth Saturday in every month. The work to fulfil the brief will be to situate the work in the allotment, their storage and the market itself. I also plan to make a short video which will do the same as the brief but also bring into the narrative the wider context of the work that is done in Thailand, their personal connections, the children they are involved with as well as the many projects that they been working with for many years. Carl is a prolific photographer and I will use some of his work to illustrate my piece.
They are an inspiring couple, very patient and loving. Ann though deserves a great deal of praise as not only does she get involved in the work with the ‘TCC’ she also, in her capacity as a ballet teacher (now retired) has taught this author all he knows about about dancing in pink tights and wig!