Oliver Jackson's unfiltered Benidorm photographs capture the joy of post-lockdown life
Rochdale-based photographer and creative Oliver Jackson has captured the joy of post-lockdown life with his new candid series of images following the Woolworth FC Sunday league team on a whirlwind trip to Benidorm.
Published in the fifth issue of 01706 – a magazine started in 2018 to document everyday life and youth culture in Rochdale through a new lens – Oliver's photographs are a refreshingly unfiltered look at northern attitudes and the Spanish seaside resort which smashes several stereotypes.
Taken in June 2022, these photographs are especially interesting as they mark the first tentative steps to get abroad and enjoy holidays again now that the worst of the pandemic has passed. Following Oliver and a group of friends from his Sunday League team Woolworths FC, the trip has been a long time in the planning.
"The trip was funded by our 'fines pot', which carried over two seasons due to Covid," Oliver explains. "Players would be fined for anything such as missing a sitter on a Sunday to ordering a Guinness with blackcurrant at the pub. This pot came to around £2,000, which funded a good portion of the trip."
He adds: "The photographs were taken wherever we went with no set plan; most were shot on the Calle Gerona strip where the famous Red Lion pub is situated. Benidorm felt more English than England, somehow or in the early 2000s, in my mind, with a very easy and relaxed feel. Also, the extremely affordable food and drinks made it feel like a place where everyone is welcome."
Featuring sun, drinks, and a man in a bear costume, these photos reveal Oliver's expert eye for photography. "When taking photos, the main practice for me is being in places that feel exciting, spontaneous and unexpected - as soon as I see a moment that feels sporadic or one of a kind is when I get my camera out - a lot of the images from this book come from that feeling," he says.
One particular subject Oliver focuses on is, of course, his friends and, in the process, youth culture in general. A topic which he thinks is often misrepresented. "From a top level, the general depiction is extreme and only shows a very small percentage of what's out there. Also, it's very southern-based, as an awful lot is going on in England that stays under the rug and out of the public eye.
"From past books I have produced, I have realised there is a huge appetite to see these real images. One particular project that changed my mind that this type of work is possible was 'Preston Is My Paris' by Robert Parkinson, Jamie Hawkesworth and Adam Murray – this really opened my eyes."
Speaking of his photos, Oliver is particularly proud of a snap which shows a man on the lethal bucking bronco at The Red Lion pub. Each night he would see people flung of this bull and sustain various injuries, but this man in particular – walking around with a broken ankle hanging off "like a snapped twig" – caught his attention.
"He told us he's got five days left on his trip and no insurance," Oliver reveals. "This shot seemed to sum up the trip the most - in one shot, you could see the bucking bronco, projector with sky sports boxing on and a built-in chippy/kebab shop inside the venue. It costs more to ride the bull than most food prices."
But while he can spot the humorous details, Oliver does not buy into the snobbery surrounding Benidorm. "After visiting, I think it is completely unneeded and inaccurate; it felt safer, friendly and easygoing than many other places I've been," he says. "The idea of the project was to give a view on somewhere that is sometimes wrongly depicted based on old stereotypes."
Instead, he feels that the series captures the reality of a resort in 2022, post-pandemic, in an honest fashion free from filters. "The idea also was to capture groups of strangers gathering to enjoy themselves after a long time in isolation, with a Rochdale-based element with a few features from past 01706 photobooks across the book."
See Oliver's photos from the series in issue five of 01706, titled Benidorm Away, which is available to buy online.