Contested Territories – Harry Flook’s Beyond What Is Written

This year our Editor James Wrigley has been putting together a new publication. Contested Territories, due for release over the next month, is a collection of works exploring modern day society from photographers, writers and creatives all of whom examine, challenge or document in some way a contested territory. In this first issue of Contested Territories James interviews documentary photographer Harry Flook on his series Beyond What Is Written. To see the full feature and interview, follow Contested Territories on instagram here to get updates on the release of this first issue.

Harry Flook’s work is born out of his own experiences, a personal investment that has taken Flook’s projects’ in various directions. Focusing on individuals’ and their stories, Flook began exploring his own experiences leaving religion, culminating in a chaptered body of work that addresses the subject from differing perspectives; Beyond What Is Written is one part of this chapter.

Spending a month meeting and photographing various non-religious communities in Tennessee; the ‘heart of the Bible Belt’. Beyond What Is Written explores the presence of religious imagery and rhetoric in perceptions of the American dream, and the portraits picture a relationship defined by shared absence from religion. This series is about the loss of and regaining community, and the changing religious landscape in America. I spoke with Harry Flook on the themes, attachment and religion in this series.

“There is a strong divide between the conservative and liberal Christians in Tennessee, but the non-religious community is so small that is completely overlooked.”

– Tad Beaty, Chattanooga Humanist Assembly.

You have a strong personal attachment within your work, connecting your own experiences with projects. Is this how you begin a lot of your projects?

I suppose so, looking back. I feel dubious about making grand statements regarding things outside my own knowledge and experience, so personal connection to the work is sort of a must. More simply, I have to stay interested in whatever I’m working on to actually follow it through. Being personally invested in the subject kind of gives me an obligation to do it justice.

You experienced leaving religion, a change that I imagine had a huge effect on this series and the way you approach the topic. This series doesn’t seem to be cynical or against religion but rather an honest exploration. What were your thoughts going into this project, and have they changed since?

This series was borne directly out of another project, which explored that experience you mention. Leaving my faith was pretty scary, I spent much of my teenage years doubting the conservative morality of the church I was part of, and fearing I’d be eternally damned for it. This left me pretty militant toward all things religion for a while. By the time I’d begun working on ‘Beyond What Is Written’ however, I’d simmered down, met some liberal christians, and begun to see the value others find in their church community.

The full interview will be featured over at Contested Territories

Photographer Harry Flook –

Words by James Wrigley –

Contested Territoires will be launching over the next month. Get all the updates here via the instagram –