This is THE ELEVENTH HOUR, a series dedicated to spotlighting graduating talent across the globe spanning art, design, architecture, engineering and of course, watchmaking. Notionally, the timely adage references the very last moment where an idea finally comes into fruition; the finale of the creative process. In this edition we speak with the Central Saint Martins graduate and photographer, George Hutton, who turned his lens on the North Eastern town of Whitby, England to document the working lives of locals, narrating the intricacies of the manifold vocations across the coastal town he calls home.
They say home is where the heart is, and for George Hutton, it beats for Whitby. The seaside town in Yorkshire, northern England, and the notorious background for Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ has proved itself a playground for the Central Saint Martins graduate, chronicling the lives and stories of its inhabitants with his Mamiya camera. A student on the Fashion Communication course at the esteemed university, Hutton’s vision fosters an atypical approach to a fashion graduates collection. Instead, Hutton illuminates the notion of dress as a universal one in a different light, gifting the viewer the photographic stories of Whitby’s workers, from welders to tree cutters, to portray a more organic runway: the spectacle of the everyday.
The Next Hour: Hi George, thank you for taking part in ‘The Eleventh Hour.’ To get started, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be interested in Fashion Communication?
George Hutton: I’m from a small town in the North East of England called Whitby. I was never very academic at school and only managed good grades in art, so if I was to pursue any higher education, art seemed to be the only option. When first doing my foundation year I wanted to do Fashion Design but soon realised that wasn’t for me. I was still interested in fashion though, but didn’t even know fashion communication existed until my teacher at the time mentioned it to me, after reading about the course it seemed like a better fit for me. Throughout my new course, my focus became less on fashion and more on photography, with fashion still being an element within that.
TNH: So after settling into this course, and finding your feet, can you tell us about you put together your final major project and what it’s all about?
GH: My final project is called ‘Workers of Whitby’. It is an ongoing photographic project showing all the workers and industries within my hometown. A lot of my work is based around Whitby because it is where I have grown up and lived all my life and as a place, I feel it’s quite unique. Whitby has got the North Sea on one side and the North Yorkshire Moors on the other making the working landscape very broad. I always knew for my final project that I wanted it to be based on this area and originally it was focused on the River Esk that runs through a lot of the outer villages in the moors and ends at the harbour in Whitby but it was difficult to incorporate a fashion element into this. So, I changed the project quite last minute. I was fascinated by the huge range of industries that make up the town; there is obviously fishermen but then you’ve got tree surgeons, stonemasons, milk farmers, steam train operators, jet jewellers, a brewery and even a brand new mine currently being built. It has been great to be able to get the opportunity to visit a lot of these places and be able to go behind the scenes and document these workers in an environment most people don’t get chance to see.
TNH: The Eleventh Hour notionally means the very last moment. Can you describe how you were feeling during this time and if you decided to make any changes?
GH: It felt as though I completely changed my final project in the eleventh hour. With only a few weeks left I shelved my River Esk project and decided to go ahead with ‘Workers of Whitby’ and also decided it would all be shot on film and that I’d print it myself. This wasn’t a lot of time to shoot a whole new project and get it printed so it was quite stressful. I had to spend a lot of my time getting it touch with as many different workplaces as I could and try and explain what I was doing, why I wanted to photograph them and then organise a date and time to do it. The pandemic made this a lot harder as well with some businesses not wanting to allow anyone who didn’t work there into the workplace. Luckily a lot of businesses were very accommodating and were more than happy to allow me in and to photograph them which really did helped me a lot.
TNH: What has been one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learnt from producing your own project?
GH: To just go out and get on with it. If I have an idea that I think could be good just go and try it instead of sitting around and thinking about doing it and what could be good and bad about it. There were a lot of times where I would spend the day thinking about what I could go out and photograph instead of just going out and doing it, but by the end of the project if I had some spare time I would just go out and see what I could find.
TNH: Who would you say is one of the most influential icons of our time that has impacted your work?
GH: In terms of this project, Ian Macdonald is definitely one. The way in which he documents workers and shows how there can be beauty within these huge industrial workplaces such as the blast furnaces is something that I wanted to try and do in my own work by photographing everyday working environments and finding the beauty in them. Jamie Hawkesworth would also be another, his documentary work shows a real commitment to just going out and travelling and being curious as to what or who he can find to photograph.
TNH: What does a typical day look like for you now after graduation?
GH: I work most days in a café through the day, and a restaurant in the nights to save up for when I move down to London in a few weeks. Whenever I’m not working I’m looking for jobs in London. I am still shooting my ‘Workers of Whitby’ project as well when I have time but there is a lot less pressure now which is nice because I don’t really have a deadline for when I want the project to be finished. I have a long list of places I want to photograph for the project in my notes so maybe it will be finished once I’ve ticked all them off.
TNH: Can you describe a moment when you felt proud of your work?
GH: When I get the contact sheets back I usually send them to the people I have photographed so they can have a look at them, and if they’re really pleased with them that makes me quite proud of what I’ve done. But also just in general with this project, being able to showcase my hometown and photograph such a range of workers has made me proud of my work and also proud of where I live.
TNH: Can you talk us through how you navigate the timing of your creative process, and how long you spend on each stage from the fruition of an idea to the final result?
GH: My notes on my phone are full of ideas and possible projects that I come up with and I usually write them down then don’t think about them again for a while. Then every so often I’ll flick back through my notes and if something stands out to me I’ll go with that and go a bit more in depth into what I could do. Once I’m at this stage I get quite eager to get on with it and go out and start photographing. But in terms of overall timing if it’s a personal project I don’t like to rush anything, especially with documentary projects it’s hard to set a deadline or an end because I always want to keep going and add more and I would feel as though I’ll miss something.
TNH: And finally, if you had to sum up your project in one sentence, what would you say?
GH: A photographic project documenting the wide range of industries and workers within my hometown of Whitby.