Along the cobbled high street, pebbled beaches and exquisite shore line, Falmouth holds a vast array of stories. This small Cornish town inspired Kenneth Grahame’s classic The Wind in the Willows; the book originated from a series of letters he wrote to his son, which began while he was staying at the Greenbank hotel. Other famous writers, such as Winston Graham, author of Poldark, visited the town often and set his novel, The Forgotten City here. This town holds thousands of stories; many are yet to be told, some never will be. Faces you pass every single day as you walk to work through the bustling town, or you sit on the scenic beaches, all hold their own individual story.
This week, you will have an opportunity to learn the stories behind the Faces of Falmouth. Josh Billington, a 24 year old photographer living in Cornwall, is holding an exhibition to showcase the people of Falmouth. The idea was hatched by three second year event management students, known as LZM events, who were inspired by the Humans of New York. The group said: “We couldn’t be more happy with the result and are extremely excited to show what our photographer and co-organiser, has created.” They approached him based on his photography and people skills. However, before this project Josh was primarily a landscape photographer, so this was a new challenge. He has done a few weddings when he started photography, but quickly fell into landscapes, as he enjoys working with the natural light against striking scenery. “This is my way of expanding myself. I’ve always seen the potential in people, I don’t see how they are: I see who they will be or are going to be,” he told me, as we had a cup tea on a crisp morning in Falmouth.
Staying in the realms of capturing natural beauty; his project entails taking pictures of people he caught in Falmouth and asking them to share a story about themselves. Taking their picture as they re-live their memories and share intimate moments from their past. They picked Falmouth because it has a cosmopolitan feel, he added: “It’s a bit like you’re in a city but you’re actually in a small sea-side town.” Josh has lived in many places in Cornwall, such as Gweek and Mullion which are both beautiful and charming, but he feels Falmouth has something about it. Something that makes you feel accepted. The town evolves every year, and everyone has a different experience here, something Josh found was missing in the other parts of Cornwall. There is much more diversity because the university brings in people from all over the world. And, who doesn’t want to get their degree in a picturesque town by the sea?
“I didn’t expect to be as roped in as I am, and loving it as much as I am. It’s kind of a lesson for me at the same time.”
The exhibition is set to take place on the 9th of April at The Stable in Falmouth, and will run for an entire week. It is outdoors, so it is open to anyone at anytime. Josh was passionate that he didn’t want anyone to be left out; it had to be accessible to disabled people and the homeless. “We’ve got outdoor lighting, it’s going to be lit up all night, it’s gonna look gorgeous. I can’t wait to see people’s faces.” This is something that Josh wants to continue. At the exhibition there will be a book so that people who feel inspired can write down their thoughts, and add their own stories. He would then like to meet with them and take their photo. So that the first half of the book will contain people he approached at face value, while the other half will be those who actively shared their stories with him. Hopefully, with some help from council, they will make a community book.
“I want every single aspect of what the community holds. People are born here, people die here. I want everything, from the very start to the very end. I don’t want to miss a single bit. My best way to do that is to capture what I thought was my project, and then offer it to the public.”
When he spoke of what he wanted the exhibition to symbolize, it was mainly that people are not alone in their struggles. While it isn’t a project on mental health, it’s something he’s always been intrigued by. “I find the mind so interesting. It’s one of the only things that can torture itself, there is an element of ourselves that enjoys grieving. People have become detached from that, as though it’s a part of something unnatural, and it’s not. That’s why I keep asking people about their hardest moments.” Anyone, no matter how different their lives are, can relate to another person on some level. As a taster, Josh told me about a man he met on Gylly walking his dog, who randomly approached him as he wanted a chat. This led to them having a personal conversation, in which he shared the details of his divorce and life afterwards. It is a gripping story – which you can read at the exhibition – that we can all relate to. It is tied to feelings of loneliness and despair, but also friendship and finding your way.
“It’s not so much about asking questions, but just having a conversation,”
It was striking how passionate Josh was; it appeared he appreciated life for all it is. He spoke of getting up way before sun rise to walk to Maenporth beach, just to get pictures of the landscape as the sun rose. He wasn’t ever bitter about the mornings when the clouds covered the sun and he couldn’t get his camera out, he just enjoys being alive, zooming around on his skateboard. But it was also clear he intends to change things. To make life better for those less fortunate, he currently volunteers to preserve areas of natural beauty in Cornwall and previously set up a business within in the council to make improvements on parks for the community. When he spoke of the future, after travelling and seeing the world with his camera, he wants to make a difference. Faces of Falmouth has the power to do this, to give people a platform to share their stories and bring them together.
LZM events added: “We would also really like to thank The Stable for being such a major part in making this possible, as well as The Printing Chambers and Falmouth University for making our vision come true!”