In spring 2019, Jim Mortram held an exhibition at Side Gallery in Newcastle based on his recently published book Small Town Inertia (Bluecoat Press, 2017). The book and the exhibition received enormous publicity as a powerful indictment of austerity.
"This book shows what happens when you restore the dimension of time to the observation of poverty, exclusion and their side-effects. Time leaves its mark on the bodies, faces and personalities of those condemned by the logic of the market never to prosper. It is set in a world where the free-market system - instead of proving permanent - has in fact begun to collapse. A world in which, while they scramble to save banks, politicians have given up on the idea of saving people." (Paul Mason on Small Town Inertia)
Jim Mortram is a carer in his family home and a social documentary photographer. In 2006, he started Small Town Inertia, a project that focuses on marginalised people in and around Dereham, the small Norfolk market town where he lives.
Photographing only within a three-mile radius of his home and creating work through prolonged interaction and repeat visits to people's homes, Mortram builds up a picture of a world largely neglected or misrepresented by mainstream media. His work concerns not only showing those who are economically disadvantaged and socially excluded but also, importantly, listening to them. Through Mortram's photographs and the accompanying testimonies of those being photographed, Small Town Inertia creates a space for people who feel they have no voice to tell their own stories.
"Listening is the seed of trust, is the key that enables the photographs The conversations, the testimony is essential - that context roots images into reality and leaves little opportunity for any viewer to superimpose any baggage they might bring to a photograph For me, it's all about affording the people I photograph further opportunity to share their feelings, their experiences, their reality." (The British Journal of Photography, 7 January 2019)
"Telling these stories," Mortram says, "for me, is a peaceful form of resistance to a very real situation." (The Guardian, 19 February 2014)
Whilst the exhibition was running, Jim Mortram and James Hyman began a conversation about the work and the possibility of the Hyman Collection acquiring some pictures. The result was a special portfolio of ten 16 x 24" photographs co-curated by the two of them to present an overview of this ongoing project.