Small Town Inertia

Documentary & Portraits by J A Mortram

About J A Mortram

I am a carer in my family home. An award winning Social Documentary Photographer and the creator of these photo stories : Small Town Inertia.


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  • Chris Marchant

    September 19, 2013 at 5:17 pm → Reply

    J A – I have just come across your work and I am highly impressed.

    The stories and photos that you produce are in my opinion, one of the most important types of documentary photography. You bring to the surface intimate stories from hidden and unreported sections of society to people that may not have heard of even thought about these people and issues before.

    The stories your report on are inspirational and powerful and report important issues that are uncomfortable truths about our modern day society.

    Keep up the amazing work and I look forward to reading all of your work and being a frequent returning visitor to your site.


  • Dave Beveridge

    October 18, 2013 at 8:24 am → Reply

    Hey Jim,

    Just like to express my gratitude for your talk at the IC-Visual Lab session in Bristol last night. I had seen the ‘Inertia’ work on the web site here before last night’s talk however it was so rewarding to listen to you so openly talk about yourself, your relationship with your subjects and your approach to documentary. An very moving session which left me with lots to think about. A great body of work …….. keep it coming!

    Dave B

  • Francis Harrison

    December 5, 2013 at 12:44 am → Reply

    Hi Jim:
    I believe we were both members of Photoholik for a while – I seem to recall corresponding with you about a very moving series of portraits of people in a home, at a time when one of our fellow members was particularly insensitive. Do you remember? I’m glad to see you doing so well and publishing great work!
    All the best from Tokyo,

  • Elly Cleary

    February 19, 2014 at 7:53 am → Reply

    I’m touched not only by your beautiful, striking images but also the connection you obviously made with the people you photograph.

  • Mike

    February 19, 2014 at 9:33 am → Reply

    Brought here by the feature on your work in the Guardian. Very powerful and very tender, all at once. I know Dereham quite well; now I shall come to know some of the people of Dereham much better. Thanks.

  • ivor goodson

    February 19, 2014 at 10:54 am → Reply

    Dear Jim I am so interested and impressed by what you are doing.It makes me want to
    know more about the people.I tend to work on peoples life histories,Have you done that?
    I have friends in Dereham so maybe one day…Ivor

  • JB

    February 19, 2014 at 1:20 pm → Reply

    Likewise was blown away by the images on The Guardian website. The images are powerful and dramatic and contextualised by the strong accompanying prose. Brilliant documentary work.

  • jan ainsley

    February 19, 2014 at 7:00 pm → Reply

    I have only just heard of you thanks to the article in today’s Guardian. Your work is very impressive- not just the photos but the words and your whole approach to documenting people. Are you interested in speaking and -or exhibiting your work somewhere in Norwich.

    • JA Mortram

      February 19, 2014 at 7:03 pm → Reply

      Thanks very much. I’ve shown a few times in the city, it was very quiet, but always open to showing and especially talking RE the series, the stories and the issues they are concerned with.

  • Marcus Scott

    February 21, 2014 at 1:55 pm → Reply

    Thanks for these amazing images. I live just outside Dereham and never really think about what is really going on around us. It’s also good to see a talented Norfolk photographer not shooting windmills but really using the lens for good.

  • Craig Neale

    February 23, 2014 at 10:53 am → Reply

    Hi Jim,

    We’ve never met, but I have looked through your images, which has been recommended by a university lecturer that I met at my interview yesterday, and I find your portraits striking and moving ! He told me your story which I found very moving, and you are an inspiration to us all ! You dig into the deepest parts of society that has been long forgotten and you represent it how it is ! Good on you pal !!

  • Craig Neale

    February 24, 2014 at 4:36 pm → Reply

    Just to let you know Jim….. I got an unconditional….. I’m still in shock! Grant the man who interviewed me asked me to try and recreate the sort of stuff you do for my local area, portray it and its people how it really is. I was wondering, not to give too much away, but have you got any hints or tips to get the most drama and emotion out of my images as possible ?? any help you can give would be much appreciated mate… and thanks for replying to my previous message!.

    • JA Mortram

      February 24, 2014 at 5:22 pm → Reply

      That’s just fantastic news!!!, well done!!! Sure, email me at Drama and emotion?, in a nutshell, earn trust, respect that trust, patience, listen, look, wait. It’s not always about making images, there is a lot that has to come and be before that. Drama and emotion are often where you’ll not be looking. Read a LOT of books, about life, watch a lot of cinema, look at a lot of paintings. See with your heart, not one out of a textbook, see through your heart and be ready. X

  • Alan

    March 12, 2014 at 7:30 am → Reply


    looked at your site following the article I read in B&W magazine,, glad I did.. the stories place the images in context and somehow add resonance. More power to you( and to the subjet=cts)


  • Gary Sutton

    May 4, 2014 at 10:05 am → Reply

    You probably get fed up with people telling you what an inspiration you are to up and coming photographers, but you are. So there!!

    You’ve put my faith back in to my 24mm and your story is incredible Jim. Hats off!!

  • Peter Sorrell

    September 17, 2014 at 10:40 pm → Reply

    These are wonderful photos–I am using them this semester in a composition course I am teaching, where we are starting with a unit on the Photo Essay. Students seemed really moved by many of these entries and we spent a class breaking a few of the images down to learn how to talk about photography…

    Unit I: New Media – Photo Essay
    J A Mortram, Small Town Inertia
    For 9/2: Choose one of the entries. Read it and look at the photographs in detail + Reading Journal entry
    9/2 in class: Discussion of entries from site and reactions
    Windows from Prison project
    For 9/4: Choose a photo and a letter. Examine them in detail + Reading Journal entry
    9/4 in class: Discussion of entries from site and reactions
    For 9/9: Reading Journal entry: Take a photo that represents your own life at the moment. It can be documentary or staged, taken with a camera or your phone. Write 500 (because you only have one Reading Journal due this week) words that state why you took this photo: what is in it, why these elements are in it, why you took the photo the way they did. Compare your photograph to Small Town Inertia and Windows from Prison. Make direct references to both photos and text. To be presented in-class on 9/9 and 9/11.

  • Bob

    October 4, 2014 at 4:55 pm → Reply

    I attended a round table discussion on ‘Keeping it Local’ at the Oxford Photography Festival at which Jim was presenting via a Skype link. I was late and didn’t hear and see his contribution – but I did hear his comments and answers to questions – and one intrigued me – ‘What audience would you like for your work?’ and his answer, briefly and if I remember correctly, was ideally everybody but especially Daily Mail readers. I had to dig into this guy and found this blog – now I understand the Daily Mail comment!

    This work is wonderful – not only of course in terms of the photography but also the narratives – and the simple humanity and empathy that comes over in both. I’m interested because I am (or was) a professional sociologist and a photographer – I only wish I’d known of this site when I was teaching the subject – for the students would have learned so much and maybe found things that touched their own lives – there is only so much academic books and extracts from newspapers and magazines can do. This is so much more powerful – real sociology with good ethnographic technique. I’m recommending this blog to my erstwhile colleagues to introduce their students to with no hesitation – and may it help us to become a more caring and empathetic society. It’s inspiring me to turn to this technique. Maybe even those Daily Mail readers are reachable…

  • Jack Rawlins

    December 10, 2014 at 8:06 pm → Reply

    Hi James,

    Firstly I wanted to say how impressed and moved by work I am. I don’t think theres anything I can really add to the messges that precede this one other than echoing the sentiments that it displays a level of empathy and connection which is rare.

    I’ve got a question for you… I first saw your work as a the multimedia piece ‘small town inertia’ which left a real impression on me. I was wondering why you chose to present the project as images and text as opposed to further works like this? I thought there was something very powerful about hearing Si’s words.

    This isn’t a criticism I’m just genuinely interested in your approach. I’ve just recently finished a degree in photography but have been more interested in moving image than still over the past couple of years, so I probably have a bias towards that format anyway, I just thought it would be interesting to hear your thoughts?

    The format for me is a secondary concern anyway, what Is actually important is the often overlooked and but extremely important issues that your work deals with and all I can say is keep up the good work and I’ll look forward to seeing further stories.

    • JA Mortram

      December 15, 2014 at 11:45 am → Reply

      Hi mate, thanks a million, most appreciated!.

      Great question, simple answer, I’ve been working all this year on new multi media stories, a colour site and have approx 30 stories almost ready to go live, I let them grow organically and long form takes time, so expect some new films, stories and audio slideshows very soon!.

  • Donna Ferrato

    March 16, 2015 at 11:53 pm → Reply

    I tell you Jim, not many people do what you do. In these powerful short stories, you capture raw emotion. You show how it feels to be alone and adrift in world which has lost it’s moral compass. Very few photographers bother to use their heart and minds to show how frightening everything is when nobody cares about you. You gave me many empathetic insights to each person you photographed. Being there you are essential to their vision of what it means to be human. You show people that every breath they take matters to you. I’m moved by the honesty in your photographs. And by how much you care…great to see the names of organizations that accept donations to help other people suffering from similar problems as you’ve documented here. You really are doing important work.

  • Kevin

    April 15, 2015 at 7:04 am → Reply

    Hi Jim.

    I just wanted to say thank you for sharing the photos and the stories that go along with them. They are really powerful. I make sure that i get my staff that lone work and support people in the community that they are aware of your work and each one has the same response- ‘wow’ the way you capture every emotion and detail is as stated above, powerful. It makes even the toughest and emotionally strong person to tug at the heart strings and gives people the realism and knowledge of the events that take place so close to home. So again thank you for sharing, and keep doing what you do and hopefully we can make a difference to those in the local community with insight and knowledge of what is potentially right next door to where we live. Keep up the brilliant work. And as stated in the past if you ever need anything then dont forget to contact me and i will try my best.

    Take care,

    • JA Mortram

      April 15, 2015 at 2:05 pm → Reply

      Thanks so much Kevin, and for sharing with the staff, that’s very appreciated. I’ll be in touch and you always know where to reach me, my doors always open, brother!. X

  • Amanda Ritson

    April 17, 2015 at 7:05 am → Reply

    Hi Jim,
    I’ve been following Small Town Inertia for some time now and would love to invite you to the north east to deliver a talk. Would that be possible or could we think about skyping you in? Thanks and best wishes, Amanda

  • Craig Saunders

    May 2, 2015 at 8:24 am → Reply

    My wife shared your blog with me – just wanted to pop by and let you know I thought it was cool. Sure you don’t need my approval 😉 It’s always moving to see people who care, and love, and to be shown humanity in all its forms. Thank you. Look forward to more. All the best, Craig

  • Jonathan Doyle

    June 12, 2015 at 10:43 am → Reply

    Hi James
    I’ve been reading your posts and looking at your photography. I think you’re doing something really important and inspired here giving those around a voice in the way you are. It feels like what photography and the connections it brings us should be all about.

    Very best wishes
    Jonathan Doyle

  • nick treviss

    June 23, 2015 at 9:53 am → Reply

    Hi James
    Just wanted to say how refreshing it has been to view your work – Small Town Inertia. A serious and rewarding and very powerful body of work handled with compassion and skill. Everything photography should be used for – telling real peoples real life stories and educating the viewer.

    Great work

  • Micque

    September 20, 2017 at 9:35 pm → Reply

    Hi, I’ve watched your Flickr page for a number of years. Only now found my way here. For what it’s worth, kudos to you for the depth of your work, not to mention quality. With great admiration, “giggie larue”, aka Micque Li

  • gi

    January 13, 2018 at 1:22 pm → Reply

    hi there James,

    I really love the photographs that you share, and I love that you contextualise them with details and interviews. This is the kind of work that I hope I can do one day. My dad is also disabled in a way that restricts his physical activity and reduces his ability to care for and look after himself in ways that most people can – he is undoubtedly high-functioning but still requires the help of a carer (even if just for company), and the respect with which you treat the photographed subject is wonderful. Many endless thanks for providing an incredible source of inspiration and motivation, I’m so glad I found it.

    love from Australia

  • Rikhil Majithia

    January 29, 2018 at 3:23 pm → Reply

    Hi Jim,

    I am truly inspired by your work. Recently I too have been using my photography to speak out about not only mine but mental health in overall. I would love to talk more personally with you for advice if possible.

    Thank you

  • Ian Woodcock

    November 12, 2018 at 3:04 pm → Reply

    Hi Jim,
    I’ve recently discovered your work when researching artists and looking at the work you have coming up at The Side in Newcastle.
    I’m planning on a trip to see the exhibition with my current Photography students, researching towards a project about their world and their life.
    Excellent work and would love to see you talk about your work (Are you opening your exhibition on the 12th Jan?).



  • John Watson

    March 20, 2021 at 11:24 am → Reply

    Hi Jim,

    We’re a camera club and a couple of our members have heard you talk about your work and have highly praised Small Town Inertia in particular. Do you give the occasional talk to camera clubs? I’d love to be able to arrange something if you do – thanks.

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