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Mark Simmons

 'Making a Difference' Bristol and Beyond photo documentary

Mark Simmons will be showing some preliminary work from his ongoing project ‘Making a Difference’, which is exploring and recording cultural changes happening in our city, on the 20th October at Proper Job!. From grass roots campaigning against the injustices and oppression of an old system in collapse to the emerging ecosystem of ecologically and socially responsible initiatives which are filling the gaps and creating new systems from the ground up. This is a very challenging time to be alive but also one full of hope for new possibilities when we realise our power and agency, and come together to make good stuff happen. Through adversity, we will from necessity organise to create new communities of mutual self interest and regeneration. It’s happening, no need to be pessimistic - time to get involved!

'Optimism is a political act. Those who benefit from the status quo are perfectly happy for us to think nothing is going to get any better. In fact, these days, cynicism is obedience.’ - Alex Steffen

Mike Feingold at Royate Hill Community Orchard

The world is facing multiple crises, health pandemics, pollution, poverty, ecological emergency, wars, to name just some.

‘Making a Difference’ is a photo documentary study exploring some of the people and grassroots projects enacting the practical and cultural changes which mark a radical shift from the mindset of the current decision makers.

Most of us now realise that Nature is facing unsustainable pressure from the increasing demands of unlimited economic growth and an old story of separation, competition and exploitation. 

However, there are new stories unfolding. I’m Mark Simmons, a photographer recording social change over the last 30 years. I am documenting this cultural shift: people living and working in new ways in relationship to the land and their communities.

All over the planet there are hundreds of thousands of organisations working towards social and ecological justice.(1) I’m exploring some of these initiatives in Bristol and the surrounding area, covering various aspects of our lives that reflect a shift to regenerative cultures.

‘The Great Turning’ is an idea developed by Deep Ecologists of a revolution involving “the transition from the destructive economy of industrial growth to a life-sustaining society committed to the recovery of the world”. And they point to evidence that “this transition is well underway”.(2) 

Ilona, Bridge Farm

Have you heard about all this positive change in the news? News media mostly overlooks the bigger picture because of its commercial interests, sensationalism and disconnected coverage. Often provoking paralysing fear, the media can exacerbate problems and hinder the emergence of creative, localised, networked and regenerative solutions that our multiple social and ecological crises require.

With decades of experience working in the media and on social/political projects, I have decided to explore this ‘revolution’ for myself. It is an antidote to the despair and isolation that I sometimes feel when contemplating what is happening on our planet. My hope is to inform and inspire those currently unaware of these heartening projects, highlighting that people and communities are becoming active and making a difference. This holds up a fuller, more optimistic picture that is emerging and reveals a pragmatic, caring and adaptive side of humanity which is empowering.

Mark Simmons 

Bridge Farm volunteer day

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

“Humans beings always do the most intelligent thing...after they’ve tried every stupid alternative and none of them have worked.”  

Richard Buckminster Fuller

(1) Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawkens (2) Active Hope by Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone