A unique photographic record of a year in the life of an English Country House Estate.
Throughout a year, Magnum photographer, Chris Steele-Perkins photographed at Holkham Hall, a 23,000 acre estate set on the Norfolk coast with a history stretching back to the 1700s. He photographed not only the various activities there, from hunting and shooting through to concerts and weddings, but also the groups of workers that form the backbone of day to day life on the Estate.
Holkham combines tradition with more contemporary activities such as pop and classical concerts, and businesses such as the rental and sale of holiday caravans. It was this mix of past and present, alongside the fact that the Hall was a lived-in family home, that most interested Steele-Perkins. For him the challenge was to look at the reality of Holkham, and explore where that reality overlapped with the clichés we cling to.
Country estates bedevil the British imagination, and much of the rest of the world’s too. Perhaps this is not surprising given that they feature in so many of our novels, historical films and TV dramas – Downton Abbey for example, or Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. The focus of these fictional accounts, however, is almost always resolutely fixed on the past, yet the estates themselves continue. They are institutions with both a past and a future.
Whilst there are many photographic projects on country life – from hunting through to country house gardens or the art collections – there is very little that gives a rounder view of life on an estate. An estate is more than an old house, it is a farm, a business, an eco-system, a community, a venue, a confluence of history – a world in microcosm.
Chris Steele-Perkins joined the Magnum Photos agency in 1979. Alongside extensive work in the developing world – in particular Africa, central America and Lebanon – he has continued to document Britain, with his 40 year overview, England, my England, being published in 2009. A Place in the Country is his tenth book. His first, The Teds, was published in 1979 and remains in print after innumerable reprints. An award winning photographer, Chris Steele-Perkins exhibits regularly throughout the world and continues to publish in major magazines worldwide.
300mm x 240mm
120 pages, 83 colour plates