Small Town Inertia

Documentary & Portraits by J A Mortram

Market Town : Shaunny : High stakes and diary entries

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When I first encountered Shaunny and took this image as just another street photograph outside the Red Lion public house in Dereham during that hot World Cup summer I’d no idea our paths might ever cross again or how in many ways that chance meeting would be one of the contributing factors to what became the series Market Town and form the template for how I’d approach and relate to all the people I now collaborate with on the project.

You meet the right person and sometimes they can be the key that unlocks the door to another world. Shaunny was that key. Upon our first meeting he was pretty drunk, one candid shot and a few that fell by the wayside during a brief conversation and the moment was gone. After I returned home and worked on the images I was struck by his tattoos. They appeared to me to be less motivated by fashion, more by personal expression and this grabbed my interest so I endeavoured to search Shaunny out.

Months passed and eventually I by chance again ran into Shaunny and we set a date for another meet, which turned out to be a landmark shoot for me and a cathartic experience for both of us.

Our conversation as I shot that winter morning turned very introspective for Shaunny and he experienced a true moment of clarity and when realising he’d let his defences down, let his true personality come to the foreground he broke down in tears of understanding, regret and re-birth.

We have kept contact ever since, meeting every couple of months and the time I spend photographing Shaunny follow the same path as most all shoots that I make, a conversation punctuated by the shutter.

Shaunny’s about to make one of the biggest and most stressful decisions of his life. Towards the end of this month he’s the option to have spinal reconstructive surgery to repair his lower spine after a succsession of accidents including a near death experience aboard a commercial fishing boat compounded by a previously unsuccessful operation to pin the shattered vertebrae.

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It’s very much a case of the lesser of two evils, what decision to make. To stay managing the pain via liquid and oral morphine whilst the damage to his spine progressively gets worse or to have a dangerous operation that has a 35% chance of rendering him paralysed below the waist.

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The latest round of Benefit assessments Shaunny failed on a mobility technicality, now under appeal so has been without any income for months, barely any food, no heat, mounting debts and a weekly prescription list of powerful painkillers to deal with the effects of his damaged spine.

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The very real temptation is to settle for pain management, where maybe 1 day in 15 he’ll be mobile enough to walk to the nearby stables where recently a youthfull passion for horses has been re-kindled.

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The very real fear is that if he’s to go ahead with the operation and it goes wrong even these slight joys will be taken away forever. Come the 28th February, for Shaunny, it’s decision time.

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Most all of Shaunny’s tattoos are diary entries to the most important loves of his life, past partners, children both alive and passed.

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I’ll be making a future blog post including an audio visual slide show focussing on the stories behind Shaunny’s body art and the stories behind them all and will continue to document the day to day fight with his injuries and the outcome of the impending scheduled operation.

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Market Town : Shaunny : High stakes and diary entries