Charlotte Patmore: The View from the Window
This is Departures – five creatives on the journeys that shaped them. We have collaborated with Fred Perry to create a zine and online series featuring the stories with exclusive photography by Charlotte Patmore. Get your hands on the zine at Fred Perry’s new London store at Coal Drops Yard from 2 November.
Photographer Charlotte Patmore made a habit of setting off on the road to find picture perfect locations. Now, they are all around her. Here, she reflects on the formative drives to nowhere which shaped her unique gaze.
I’m from Wigan in the north west of England, and learning to drive at 17 broadened my horizons. I came from a town in the middle of nowhere, the kind of place where even just getting the train to Manchester would be really exciting. Growing up, it wasn’t easy to get anywhere. I didn’t really care that much about learning because, in my head, I always knew I was going to end up in a big city like London anyway. But my mum forced me and my brother to learn, because as soon as we were old enough to, she’d decided that she wasn’t going to drive us around anymore.
It was my step dad’s car, a bright blue Ford KA (he worked nights so I’d have it in the day). We’d shove everybody in it and take these big road trips to places across the country. Now I could drive, I realised I could go anywhere with my friends and take photos.
For my 18th birthday, I booked a bed and breakfast in Scarborough and drove all of my friends there to do a fashion shoot, while wandering around this old seaside town that was starting to fall apart. It was the best birthday, which sounds a little tragic, but by that point I knew what I wanted to do and that was my idea of a good time! We’d also go to these stately gardens and obsess over these indulgent backdrops that would feel like the kind of locations that they would use in glossy fashion magazines.
They were really massive road trips in our head, like we were crossing America in a Cadillac, but in reality it was just us driving to the towns around Wigan. It felt like nobody else around us in the town was doing anything like that and I reckon everyone thought we were crazy, but we were in our own little bubble living our dream. It was kind of beautiful, really. We were just out there, my friends and I, on a mission to get to London as creative people. It was like life or death; every photo in each new place felt so important. And there was no way we could have got there without me driving. By that point, even if something bad happened, we just felt like we had to get there and do it.
© Charlotte Patmore
I’d always wanted to escape my hometown so badly. I didn’t really pay attention to how influential it was to me at that time, because I was just always looking forward; to the next stage. Now I live in London, and if I’m working and have all of my kit, I usually find myself behind the wheel of a car, for the first time properly since I was a teenager. I know my route now, from my old home in North London to my boyfriend’s place in South, and it makes me feel like a proper Londoner.
Making that journey, I’ve been looking at London through romantic, rose-tinted glasses. Even little things, like going past big estates that look like cruise ships lit up at night or hundreds of commuters walking to work all staring at their phones – or even just kebab shops. They feel like the epitome of the city, and now I’ve seen the world, I see London’s beauty in a way I haven’t noticed before. Finally getting to drive again has been so stimulating. Going into my late twenties, it feels like a completely different stage of myself compared to when I was 19. I loved London but I had never really seen it as inspiring.
I don’t know how to describe it – it’s like I finally learned to find beauty in the mundane.