The Dorkinians came about as a result of a conversation with a friend of mine who was starting a new business in Dorking and wanted an artwork/photograph for his new offices. Specifically he wanted an image that said something about the community. I had already been thinking for some time about creating a portfolio of portraits of the people of Dorking, so this presented some impetus and an opportunity to start that journey. Between the two of us it appeared that there was a common desire to try to establish what life in Dorking was like, who lived there and who visited the town. There is some debate about the population of the town, dependent largely on borders (and who you talk to) but approximately 20,000 is what was settled on. No doubt there will be people who disagree on this number, but I wanted a figure that I could aim at. I wanted to collect enough portraits that would be a fair, diverse and honest representation of people who either lived, worked, visited, went to school or had some reason to be involved in Dorking. I also needed to consider the finished artwork that was to ultimately hang in the offices of my friends company (Mole Valley Asset Management since you asked). I settled on a montage of 119 portraits that would fit within a 6'x4' frame. And because a few of the portraits contained groups, within the 119 portraits would be 200 people, and therefore approximately 1% of the population of Dorking.
So, it was then a question of finding people who were willing to sit (or stand) for me. I've lived in Dorking for 20 years, and so I know quite a few people in the town. I wanted to try and illustrate the diverse nature of a town that might fairly be considered Middle England, and so I wanted to try and surprise and be surprised by the make up of the community. In the end I photographed a few that I already knew, but I also approached people on the street or asked people if they could think or suggest anyone they thought suitable. In the end I was surprised. I met many people who had lived here as long as I, and found it inconceivable that we had not met before. I photographed some who had lived in the town all their life, I photographed a two day old baby boy, and I photographed a clown who was visiting Dorking for a few days with the circus. I also thought it important to represent the pillars of the community, places where community resides. To this end I approached churches, supermarkets, scout groups and public places and institutions. As the project progressed I began to think about the landscape of Dorking and its history. I started to think about how the topography of a place may affect its population, in the past, present and future. To this end I photographed, and will continue to photograph the landscapes of Dorking, as well as some of the collected bones and fossils found in the towns museum where some of Dorkings' former residents preside.
I should take this opportunity to thank all those who took part in the project, as well as those who helped direct me to many of the people photographed here.
Drawing of Dorking Cockerel courtesy of Alex Carlisle