Curating #PHOTOGRAPHY Magazine has introduced me to many fascinating bodies of work, those that resonate most are projects with a compelling narrative, which is essential when it comes to issues of importance such as Brexit. Jordan Turnball’s series A Rock and a Hard Place explores beneath the surface of Gibraltar, revealing the troubling core of a British territory in political limbo and shedding a light on an overlooked community.
What was it about Gibraltar specifically that moved you to make this body of work opposed to other territories within British jurisdiction? I was researching possible ideas for my Final Major project knowing that I wanted to focus on something Brexit related because this was the biggest change to happen to the country in decades and it would affect how Britain interacted both internally and with the rest of the of the world.
I was reading a ‘Financial Times’ piece detailing the issues surrounding the “Irish Backstop” and after finishing the piece there was a related article on Gibraltar and how Brexit would affect the tiny overseas territory. I did look into other territories such as Helena and Ascension but Gibraltar’s ease of access and the way the inhabitants had showed their loyalty to Britain in the past only reinforced my vision that the work would hold greater resonance there.
Gibraltar appears to be a haven caught among generations of consistent turmoil between irreconcilable governments. Having explored and documented the culture, in what way do you think this has affected Gibraltarian people and everyday life? I think, to a degree, this has affected the Gibraltarians. I have heard about fisherman being hassled after the Brexit vote went through and threats regarding the border have been made before although nothing too concrete has been put in place as of yet. It does seem to me that each generation of Gibraltarian has got to prove where their loyalties lie, as if those who had voted in 2002 would feel any less British than the generation who voted in 1967, with both outcomes resulting in resounding favour of British sovereignty.
I can completely understand why they would feel very frustrated and a little bit apprehensive that any movement politically that Britain or Spain makes could unearth this issue again and go to a peoples vote, which having spoken to Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Garcia, would no doubt result in the same outcome of the previous two. Gibraltarians are British, although territorially not part of the mainland, which means that Gibraltar has a balancing act on its hands in keeping both Spain, its neighbour, happy while continuing with a proud British identity.
Your work shows an unwavering loyalty to the UK despite the Gibraltarian people having overwhelming voted to remain. Do you think this support will falter once exit negotiations have come into full effect, especially with Gibraltarian economy relying heavily on Spanish trade and open borders? I think this would be more difficult to foresee because things can change so quickly and go in the opposite direction to what was predicted. There are a couple of things that make Gibraltar such a unique place. One being that they are almost entirely self-governing and completely self-financing which allows them to create their own budgets which in turn has shown economic growth possibly when other EU members have not. While I was there I noticed just how much construction was happening in the area, owing to the high demand for development of properties within an area which is still seen as very attractive to businesses establishing themselves. Gibraltar does rely on Spain for construction and other materials so hypothetically if they chose to cut off these links by a hard border it could have detrimental affects on Gibraltars economy. On the other hand Gibraltar single handedly accounts for 25% GDP of the overall southern region of Andalucía through employment and purchasing of these aforementioned materials so Spain would have to determine whether to lose such a positive partner and think about the social and economic implications of those actions.
Has creating this work shifted your viewpoint on Brexit and what it means to be British? In short regarding whether my viewpoint has been changed, no, it has not due to the fact that there have been no positive steps to come out of the whole process. We have gone through the initial transfer talks, parliamentary meetings to summits and thus far are no closer to agreeing a deal with the EU than when we started in June 2017.
To be British, for me, is to be proud of my country, respectful and have a sense of belonging. It's also a privilege especially when you turn on the news and see some of the other events that are happening in other parts of the world and I do think this is disregarded a lot of the time. Making the work certainly reinforced my pride in Britain as there’s a real neighbourly atmosphere within Gibraltar shown through the decorative Union Jacks on almost every street as a way of reminding people of their history, back in the UK we only get that robust togetherness feeling when a World Cup is on or its one of the Royals birthdays, but when it happens its certainly a great feeling.
Do you have any plans to continue the project or any other Brexit based work? I do have plans to go back to Gibraltar and continue the project, there’s a few other photographers making work over in that corner which is good because its got a lot to say for itself and the people are really interesting. Brexit is an absolute goldmine for photographic work not just politically but on a social level too as something will always be shifting further down the line so its good to see other creatives exploring these changes.
I have certainly been taking notes on other potential situations that are developing or will develop when and indeed if we do eventually leave. Theres an argument that if we leave we could capitalise on greater trading with India, The UAE and Japan which could throw up some interesting narratives with opportunities to travel. We will also more than likely feel the effects of Brexit for years to come so there will constantly be new opportunities for work arising closer to home.