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“The London-born photographer Mark Neville is best known as a documenter of discrete communities, whose circumstances and concerns he records with an activist energy. In 2004, in Port Glasgow, he completed a series of photographs that was distributed, in book form, only to inhabitants of the troubled mercantile and shipbuilding town. Seven years later he was engaged by the British Army as an official war artist in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He returned with P.T.S.D., and subsequently published “Battle Against Stigma,” a campaigning, two-volume work on behalf of veterans afflicted with the disorder. Though he has no children of his own, Neville is an especially subtle photographer of them; his 2016 book, “Child’s Play,” brings together many such pictures, to protest the disappearance of public play areas in Britain and elsewhere.
Neville studied fine art in school, and was educated in Conceptualism and institutional critique before being drawn to documentary practice. But for him art alone is never the point, even if his images are notably artful. He is indebted to socially engaged photographers such as Tom Wood and Chris Killip, and was sharing an exhibition with both of them in the town of Guingamp, in Brittany, when he conceived of his most recent project. They were there at the time of the Brexit vote, in June of 2016, and Neville found himself apologizing to his Breton hosts, ashamed of his own Britishness, though Brittany (France’s “Little Britain”) is home to an estimated thirteen thousand British citizens. Beginning that month, and finishing in April of this year, Neville documented life in the region, mostly in or around Guingamp, hoping to show the complexity and openness of what may seem to be a tribal, inward-looking place. In color and black-and-white, in large and medium format, with varying degrees of planning and artifice, the pictures—collected in a new book, “Parade”—show an agricultural community that is thoroughly modern and industrialized, devoted to its traditional sporting and cultural pursuits, but sharply aware that neither agribusiness nor rural nostalgia will provide a viable, or ethical, future.”
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