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Country Bumpkins - Documenting the diaspora beyond London

Updated: Oct 10, 2019

To exist as individual is a special thing, it sprawls with the beauty of the many characteristics and idiosyncrasies that we have as people in this vast landscape we call life. Artist, Karis Beaumont has been set on an endeavour to take us behind the nuances of life through her camera lens, reciting her everyday encounters within society and how they compel our eye through the vulnerability of raw imagery.

She wishes to see past surface and delve further than skin-deep into the intricacies that may help us see our true selves. With her latest project Country Bumpkins, she has put into frame the Black Diaspora outside of inner city London, examining what life is like for Black Brits in the rest of England from village to town. Depicting the image behind the image is an aspect that validates Karis’s art form – coming from of the naturalistic approach rather than one that is directed. “As a photographer I’ve worked with people that may be unsure of what they wish to expose but I kind of just capture them in their element, in their essence – something that makes them just beautifully human. When I look at photographers like Ronan Mckenzie and like Jack Mckain, they are capturing people instead of directing them – displaying them in their rawest sense. There may be certain elements that people think are not attractive, what they think they should keep under wraps. But as a photographer, I think it is my job to bring out what someone might try hide…so when they look back at the image they can be like, “oh, I didn’t know that was there”.

Country Bumpkins is a project that does not concern itself wholly with only one specific aspect of the Black Disapora but instead reaches far and wide, documenting black existence in places that may seem alien to some, highlighting tradition, the significance of portrayal and the nature of things that may seem trivial at first. “The majority of the black population within the UK are in London but then you have the rest of us who are kind of spread out across the U.K, so it’s hard to kinda keep tabs on what’s happening everywhere else. Our existence in theses spaces is just as valid because we exist. There’s nothing wrong with the focus being on the mass population living in London because it’s more visible, but a lot of the time we lose the nuance of the black experience within the rest of the UK. It can lead to distance or even dismissal from our peers from the city, because the media portrays black people a lot of the time as only being in urban spaces and that’s just not true.

Looking through Karis’ images its clear to see that the black experience outside of an urban space within UK is well and truly alive, there’s a touch of realism that draws us into not only believing but knowing that these images are not just happenstance but are connected to everyday familiarity. “Connecting with more and more people, bringing education, letting there be information and referencing that people can have access to – that is a part of what Country Bumpkins is about. There is so much history that has happened all over, Black British history! There are things people should get to know but no one will ever get to know if no one is documenting it.” ‘Getting to know’ is a commonalty within Karis’ work as her insistent curiosity drives her passion, it’s no mistake that she has garnered the urge to tell stories that span wider than her own. “I definitely came to a realisation after hearing stories from my parents about their upbringing and what they used to get up to, this aspect of the black experience was something that really resonated with me and not because I was getting stories from my parents but because they are not from the city. It was a different perspective, so it was just something I was really curious about.”

It has been a journey for Karis to reach this form of expression, one that does not run short of her own trials and tribulations to build up her confidence from being a timid and shy child. “Lack of confidence from being young, I maybe think it built up a personal character trait from within myself. I think it was more of how I saw myself, I know now you have to be confident from within to be confident in your strides and be able to talk to people.” Her work brings individuals to the forefront, she understands from a personal level the shell that must be broken for her to achieve what she does, “in a sense, vulnerability has two sides. It’s good to be vulnerable and it’s good to be private, but I see it as a case of coming as you are. It has to come without the fear of being rejected. For example, someone being photographed may feel invaded – but I believe vulnerability is gateway to freedom.”

Karis is at the forefront of not only documenting her own journey but also the journey of others, connecting stories to bring about an even greater picture. Having asked her what she believes the need for her art is, she solemnly replies, “To keep things alive.”

Words by Tawana Taggs


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