This important series of photographs, ‘The Jones Family’, by Liz Hingley highlights a reality many aren’t willing to face in so called first world countries, namely the increasing level of poverty.
Since the crash in 2008 poverty and homelessness has become the single biggest issue in Western Europe and although this project focusses on one family living in England it could be anywhere. In Ireland the level of people living below the poverty line is getting larger every day, it has become such a drastic situation that a new category of people has emerged, the working poor. Those people who, despite working, can still not afford a basic standard of living. It is a disgrace, a catastrophe and as charities mobilise and try to stave off the inevitable politicians twist in the wind knowing that these minority groups will not affect their vote tallies. The rich get richer while the poor get poorer.
Hingley is both a photographer and social anthropologist and in 2010 she began working with the Jones family in an effort to understand the consequences of intergenerational cycle of poverty in the UK. A country that currently has 4 million children living in severe poverty. The Jones are a family of nine, two parents and seven kids, and live in a three bedroom council house in Wolverhampton, an industrial town in the West Midlands. The children are the first generation to live in a house – their parents and grandparents having grown up in caravans – and despite its small size it’s a place imbued with emotion, full of memories, a home that means more to them the the materiality of the building itself. So much so that they refused to move to a larger council house when it was offered to them.
It was into this house that Hingley visited – over a period of two years – in the hope of articulating their feelings about their home, of family, the material objects they cherish as well as the everyday rituals, practices and interactions in which each family member finds personal expression and a sense of autonomy.
The resulting pictures are an evocative a poignant portrait of a family who resist. Who live for each other in spite of the inequality of their situation. Who love and support each other in a country that is hell bent – like all other Western democracies – on following down the path of free market capitalism, a system that leaves the marginal of society on the edge, on the outside looking in. Here’s what Hingley has to say about the family:
Over two years of sharing the stories of family life I developed a more subtle visual language which aims to transcend the surface impression of bare floorboards and peeling wallpaper in order to communicate this family’s unique culture and each individual character, their genuine love and compassion towards each other and resilience against deprivation.
The three boys and four girls have high aspirations for their future but they are aware of the financial and emotional difficulties they face in leaving the family home. Gary, the eldest son was the first in the family to ever go to University. After studying animation he set up his own business company from the bedroom, which he shares with his two other brothers. Michelle of 21, was the first to move out when she met Alex in the local playground and fell in love. Alex was born in the Congo as the youngest of nine children and studies film at Wolverhampton University. Di Bronchi Jones Bondele was born to Michelle Jones on the 11th of August 2012.