Identity & Exile: James

A portrait of ecological activist and Artist James Marriot as part of the series. Portraits from London and Paris.

Starting out on this piece which is presented in a series of triptych’s which continue as a narrative sequence I was initially intrigued by his sense of belonging a rootedness in one culture, a love of nature and regeneration. In order to get a sense of his beginnings and the journey taken, James took me to the old family estate of his uncle Rowley, a place called Cotesbatch where much of the family history and identity is rooted.

He wanted to show me how the theme of sacrifice had infused the ruling class in the run up to World War I and how this sense of duty had meant the ultimate sacrifice for his uncles Fred and Digby in World War I in the trenches of Ypres. I photographed the fields around the estate, the family church where the crosses from their graves in Belgium were brought back.

Cotesbatch was almost a family mausoleum, the place seemed to be lost in time, a display cabinet of medals in the front hall a constant reminder of their ultimate sacrifice. What intrigues James Marriot is that the word sacrifice goes both ways, that others were sacrificed in the pursuit of the ideals of Empire. He said "it was never discussed that others were sacrificed". When photographing here I sensed in the physical landscape of Cotesbatch, with its ancient oak trees and furrowed fields, a past history that weighed upon the present. It was hard for James to break free of this history and move on; he feels a sense of duty to maintain these past memories and all they stood for despite his own political stance as someone who fights against the legacy of Empire through its contemporary manifestation, the global corporation.

In conversations and exchanges of letters with James we talked about his work with Platform* he described how "we essentially focus on those who are sacrificed in the pursuit of the corporate agenda". I chose just one of many projects that Marriot and Platform are working on to continue my portrait. This concerns the BTC pipeline which was finally constructed in 2005 after much local opposition from people affected along its route. The pipeline starts in Azerbaijan and continues through Georgia, Eastern Turkey and exits into the sea at Ceyhan on Turkey`s Mediterranean coast. In this piece we see the destroyed houses in some of the Georgian villages, the promise of water being connected in a village as compensation for the construction of the pipeline and then people being let down. We see how in parts the pipeline route has left an open scar on the landscape and therefore can not be farmed. In this piece we see how James connects with places and people that are sacrificed by the Global corporations profit motives.

Find out more about Platform's work here

© 2017 Helen Sheehan