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Interview: Edi Whitehead on 'Portraits of an Essex Girl'

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

Today we meet the fantastically passionate campaigner Edi Whitehead and discuss Edi’s latest collection of stories entitled ‘Portraits of an Essex girl', which explores people's individual stories set within the local community to inspire and bring people up, build confidence and be proud of where you come from. You can find more about Edi over on Instagram and Twitter.

Edi is a passionate campaigner and change maker who encourages others to consider their communities and identities, all themes tying into our macro coverage of community, protest and change-making from individual changes and grass roots campaigns to wider national and international campaigns for change.

edi whitehead portrait

What inspired you to create 'Portraits of an Essex Girl'?

To be honest, I've been thinking about this for around 3 years. Creatively, I've always photographed portraits in documentary-style. When I realised that by not speaking up every time someone trash talked where I was from and the women from these places, I was complicit in these stereotypes, I decided to put my craft into changing this. The Social Art Network partnered with Kickstarter to coach 10 socially-engaged artists, being part of that was the perfect catalyst for getting it off the ground.

What does 'Portraits of an Essex Girl' explore?

The dictionary definition of an Essex girl describes, in quite a derogatory way, someone who's superficial, brash and materialistic. This project explores both people who do and don't fit into these stereotypes. There's nothing wrong with being a quintessential Essex girl, but there's not much out there that says that - plain and simple. There's nothing wrong with being different to it, and being from the place in a different way. I'm trying to fight for a more inclusive, nuanced feminism. It’s really a love letter to where I came from, highlighting the wonderful people who make up the fabric of Essex in all their forms.

What would you like people to take away from the project?

That there’s no one way to be from any place. That there’s more people worth listening to than the ones you hear. Overall, I’d like to encourage consideration over how we stereotype places and promote a more inclusive way of seeing each other whilst highlighting some other amazing grass roots creatives and projects within Essex.

What type of people have you met creating the campaign?

Women and non-binary people from all walks of life, not just high-profile people from TV. I’m meeting therapists, writers, poets, playwrights and radio presenters as well as people in local government ranging in ages, backgrounds and Essex locations. The interview with each person is filmed as well as photographed and is about people telling their own story and the project helping them to do that. It’s really inspiring and I can’t wait to share them.

Photography by Edi Whitehead


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