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Sevenoaks 2020: Dynamism  Diversity  Resilience

Sevenoaks 2020 - a photography project to celebrate the diversity dynamism and resilience of the town centre and look confidently to the future.

It was conceived by Victoria Granville as a riposte to the challenges faced by town centres in the age of internet and car-based out-of-town shopping at the time of the 900th anniversary of the first written record of Sevenoaks. However, the rapid onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020 presented a greater and more intense challenge to the town’s businesses and activities.

Over half of the images are of the individual businesses and activities along with the people who make them work. The remaining shots were taken after lock-down.

Undertaken by Victoria along with Elizabeth Purves and Roger Lee, work on the project began in late October 2019. The photography was completed in early May 2020.

The Exhibition

The major outputs from Sevenoaks 2020 are an exhibition and associated book of around 250 photographs. The exhibition in the Kaleidoscope Gallery at the Library in Sevenoaks ran from September to October 2020. Graham Upton and Justin Rainey in the Print Studio of Sevenoaks District Council produced the large dibond prints. Now after the exhibition, these become the property of the people who appear in them. Other than in the book, they will never again be seen as a collection.

The Book: Sevenoaks in a Time of Change

This is a portrait of central Sevenoaks in the year 2020. Containing photographs of every business, of which 130 include the wonderful staff who run them, a historical appendix, a series of commentaries on urban change and a policy framework, it runs to 192 pages and is available from this website.

The photography

A number of explicitly photographic decisions had to be taken at the outset and then had, of course, to be observed throughout. Particularly important was the decision not to use a polarizing filter. This meant that apparently distracting reflections in the windows of many shops would be seen. Retaining these reflections marked the fact that the project is about the town centre as a whole and the cheek-by-jowl relationships between activities rather than the activities themselves.

For the same reason it was decided to retain all street furniture within the images.

All photographs were shot in mono. This ensures a degree of uniformity and avoids distractions associated with full colour photographs.

Despite the relevance and urgency of the project, it might have been expected that photographic boredom would quickly set in whilst taking 250 plus almost identical images. But exactly the opposite was the case. Each image posed unique questions. The 120 or so images which involved both staff and premises are especially intriguing. They offer not only great variety in terms of the numbers of people involved – ranging from one person to over 30 - but present fascinating differences arising from the relationships of the subjects between each other and their place of work as well as with the photographer.

The same camera and lens (a 24-90 mm f2.8-4.0) was used throughout and, for good or ill, the same photographer completed all the shots.