Since 2016, Lee Hooper has been documenting the forever changing landscape of Folkestone, a small port town on the English Channel. Within the project, Hooper focuses his attention to the diversity of its inhabitants, from young refugees, students to young creatives.
Once celebrated, feted and adored, Britain’s coast is struggling to find a role in people’s hearts in the age of bargain-basement cheap-flights and package holidays. In the place of lustrous vibrancy is desolation, decline and dereliction, where the fate of the seaside town has seemingly been sealed. With social deprivation and cuts cutting deeper into coastal communities, places like Folkestone are fighting to evolve, reevaluate and find new purpose. It’s the age-old conundrum of gentrification that splits the community. The old vs. the new. The greater good, vs. the individual. The respect for roots vs. profit and greed. Which poses the question, what does Folkestone’s future look like? Is it here right now? Will it ever arrive?
This ongoing project attempts to document the people of Folkestone through the eyes of its future, and it’s past, unpicking nuances that both contradict and complement.As a gateway to the European Union, Folkestone is a melting post of cultural and political relevance. A mass of contradictions, unity and opinion, Folkestone is a small town where roles are no longer defined, creating a zenith moment for its inhabitants who are free to live as their parents did, or to set their own path.
“I started working on the project because I believed the unique setup of the location was incredibly interesting. Along with Dover, Folkestone is located at the gateway to the European Union, from my flat you can see Dover’s shoreline, there is definite feeling of change happening. Folkestone was once a vibrant Folkestone has a history of ups and downs in terms of its past, and documenting those changes was intriguing to me. Like Hastings and Margate, seaside towns like Folkestone were once Victorian holiday meccas, but social deprivation and cuts mean places like Folkestone are fighting to evolve, re-evaluate and find a purpose.
When it came to the people I photograph, I was intrigued about documenting the reality of it’s inhabitants, something I hadn’t seen portrayed in the various articles in the press writing it off as another gentrification project. When picking the people I photographed I was particularly interested in photographing youth culture, the younger generation through them I wanted to show the sheer diversity of its inhabitants, from young refugees, students to young creatives. I wanted to document not only the changing landscape, but what’s next generation of inhabitants look like.
The landscape and the younger generation have many similarities, both going through changing life stages, and trying to find best ways to manoeuvre through the tricky task of understanding their identity and future.”