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  • Alex Ingram Portrays the Warden Way of Life in ‘The Gatekeepers’

    Alex Ingram is a 24 year-old freelance photographer from Pembrokeshire, UK, currently based in London, working on commercial and personal projects. His photographs document the beauty of the world around him, and provide him opportunities to meet with people and communities across the country. As such, his series The Gatekeepers documents the lives of wardens on the remote islands of UK.

    How did you start in photography?
    When I first went to University, I started out studying Architecture at Nottingham, but very soon realised that this wasn’t for me. After one term, I decided that what I was really interested in was photography, and so I applied to study photography in Bristol the following year. Growing up, I was always really interested in photography and started out by just photographing my friends and family. I didn’t really think too deeply into it, it was just a means of me recording my day to day life and documenting that. This is something that I still do to this day. My work is fundamentally about people and my interactions with these people that I have met at different stages of my life. I’m a very nosey person, and I feel that photography enables me to open doors and enter into people’s lives and get a better understanding of them.

    Introduce us to your series The Gatekeepers
    The Gatekeepers is a project that I’ve been working on for the past year that documents the lives of wardens, who have chosen to live on the tiny islands that surround the UK. It is an exploration of a more simplistic way of living, questioning why someone would choose to live in such remote and often inhospitable locations, and how they have escaped our modern world. Over the next few years I will be visiting these remote islands and spending time with the wardens who live there, documenting their way of life, and exploring the isolated landscapes that they call home.

    What did inspire you to explore these isolated islands?
    The Gatekeepers came about through a conversation I had when I was shooting my last long-term project, David’s House. I grew up in St Davids, the smallest city in the UK that sits on the most western point of the Pembrokeshire coastline with a population of just 1841. David’s House was a project that explored my relationship with this tiny community and how living in such a secluded part of the world shaped me into the person I am today.

    “This project is an exploration of another world, a simpler way of life, and an alternative way of living where all social status is revoked.”

    I loved growing up there, but the career prospects are pretty limited and I felt that I had outgrown that way of life. I knew that my time there had come to an end and I was excited to move away into a more metropolitan way of living. Moving away made me question my relationship with St Davids and Pembrokeshire as a whole. I wanted to go back and document the place that I was brought up through a new set of eyes. I revisited the places I knew so well and spoke to the people I grew up with, seeking to understand the connections that the subjects have with the landscape, and their reasoning and choices for spending their lives in such a secluded part of the world.

    One of the most interesting characters that I interviewed for that series was Malcolm Gray, the old coxswain of the St Davids Lifeboat. He told me about a couple who lived out on Skomer Island all year round, working as wardens, conducting research into the delicate ecosystems, and preserving the islands wildlife for future generations. This really struck a chord with me, and I felt it was a natural progression from the subject matter I was exploring with David’s House and I knew it was something that I wanted to explore further.

    After graduating, I moved straight to London and began working as a freelance photographer, shooting editorial and advertising commissions straight away. I was super busy with commercial work and I went an entire year without shooting anything for myself. I got to a point where I just needed to shoot something for myself again, without any brief or any creative constraints, and so I began researching into the lives of the island wardens that Malcolm had told me about. The more I researched into it, the more this simplistic way of living interested me, and I began to find other wardens on other islands. I think it is a bit of an escape for me from the crazy world that is London. In the past 9 months I have visited 3 islands around the UK, and am heading to Skokholm next week to continue working on the project. I haven’t given myself any set deadline, instead, letting the project evolve organically over time.

    How do you hope viewers react to the series?
    I hope that the viewers see the images, the people, and the places with an open mind. This project is an exploration of another world, a simpler way of life, and an alternative way of living where all social status is revoked. A world where you are detached from the technological gadgets we are all glued to. Away from the crowded, busy commutes, and everything else that is happening in the world. I hope that the viewers get a glimpse into this alternative way of life, and for a brief moment feel a sense of intrigue and exploration.

    Enjoy the whole project on his website.