Wellness and identity have always been the golden nuggets everyone is trying to find or the infinite puzzle we can't resist to decipher. Science, astrology, the bible, gossip magazines; everyone has an opinion on this matter. Each one with a headline that promises a long and fulfilled life. It's true that no source may contain the absolute way of thriving through this life, but the existence of repetitions and its persistence, leaves little space for doubts. One of these reiterations is the sense of community as a vital factor for a long and meaningful life. Whether you want to live long, or keep it short and simple, being part of a community is one of the most authentic, if not the most real way, to experience life and humanity. We become ourselves fully and fill up the pieces of our identity when we come in conscious contact with others.
English photographer Joanne Coates (@joannecoates_ ) created one of her first photographic projects based on the concept of community. How it's created through its people and molded around a geographical area. Her series documents the fishing community of Orkney, a reality that had always been part of her own history as part of a family that was always deeply connected with the sea and its context.
Coates started working in this community in 2012 , a project that lasted almost 5 years. One of her main concerns, as she herself expresses, was the introduction to a new community " I'm always wary of dropping in a place without respecting the culture or the people." A concern we should all have in mind when immersing ourselves into a new reality. Respect is shown through patience, knowledge, constancy and boundaries. The caution, delicacy and dignity that we have with a new acquaintance willing to show us their spiritual, mental and physical intimacy; it's the same kind of respect that we need to perform with a community. It's the introduction not only to a single personage but with the entangled reality of many characters co-creating a specific scenario.
Joanne explored specifically the working class and rurality. Going over the layers of rural communities as a complex ecosystem with its own challenges. Communities that in various contexts are "often shown as pastoral or picturesque when in reality they face much harder issues. For many artists it is for them a chance to escape, but when you live in such an environment the reality is very different."
North Sea Swells is one of Coates's first photographic projects, one where she discovered how photography is a work of community. Whether it's the photographer and their camera, the photographer and their native community or in a foreign one. To commune means to converse profoundly; Joanne with her camera was the witness and also an agent of those conversations between fishing men and the sea, nets and water, coworkers and friends. Joanne was able to create such an intimate and transparent project about Orkney's community by listening profoundly to those exchanges between men, sea, and nature. Each community, no matter its size, has its own senses. A specific odor, color palette, taste and soul. To be able to sense a community is an honor, and a matter of time. Joanne gave us a photographic panorama of this fishing community that transforms into a projection of every community out there. Each one with its unique nuances, traditions and people. Remembering us how important it is to appreciate the way we humans create connections between ourselves and our environment and how these bonds define us.