184 - Joanne Coates


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Joanne Coates is an English, working class documentary photographer based in North Yorkshire, interested in rurality, hidden histories and class. She was born in the rural North of England, educated first in working class alternative communities, then at The Sir John Cass School of Fine Art and The London College of Communication from where she has a Ba Hons in Photography. Her practice is as much about process, participation and working with communities as the still image. Joanne’s work has been exhibited both in the UK and internationally.

Joanne is Director of the Arts organisation Lens Think, a Social Enterprise based in Yorkshire and the North East, dedicated to making opportunities and gaining access for marginalised groups & developing photography in the North of England. Its aim is to fight for class equality and a more creative industries through participation and radical community arts. The organisation works with schools, and provides mentorships to 3 artists per year.

In 2021 Joanne was a joint awardee of the Jerwood / Photoworks prize. The resulting work, The Lie of the Land, explores the social history of the land and narrates a story of gender and class in relation to the countryside of the North East of England, and will be exhibited at The Jerwood Space in London from 23 September – 10 December 2022.

Her project Daughters of the Soil, about role of women in agriculture in Northumberland and the Scottish Borders, was published as a book, in a small, limited-edition print run, and is now more or less sold out. The work will be exhibited at the Vane Gallery, Gateshead from 11 August – 3 September 2022, where there will be a few remaining copies of the book available. Preview Wednesday 10 August 5-8pm. Small Voice listeners welcome!

On episode 184, Joanne discusses, among other things:

  • How her practice has shifted
  • The Lie of The Land and Daughters of the Soil
  • Class and why it’s important to her identity and work
  • Social mobility
  • Northern culture and the North / South divide
  • Tall poppy syndrome and being yourself
  • The importance of community
  • Engaging with her subjects
  • Why everyone is a political photographer
  • Lens Think
  • Advantages vs. disadvantages of being based up north
  • Her recent autism diagnosis


Website | Instagram | Twitter

“I’m never gonna be that person who walks up to someone at a private view and says ‘hi, this is me and this is what my work’s about…’ I would vomit in my mouth. I just wouldn’t be able to do it. But someone else, that might be who they are, and there’s actually nothing wrong with that. That might be very natural for them so it wouldn’t be a forced interaction.”

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