“I keep everything,” Pitts laughs. “There’s so many terrible photographs in my archive. It’s about seven terabytes, and maybe only 3 per cent of it is usable. But it’s amazing how, as the years go by, I find new things. What I thought was a terrible image that just didn’t work, suddenly it’s like, ‘Actually, yeah.’ You see it in a new light.” As circumstances change, how one valorises images changes in tandem. Different stories can be extracted from the same materials, and one can re-evaluate what is considered worthy.
A companion exhibition to the book is on show at Graves Gallery in Sheffield – Pitts’ hometown – until 24 December, and will migrate to Stills in Edinburgh in spring 2023. The exhibition was commissioned by Photoworks for the inaugural Ampersand/Photoworks Fellowship. “I wanted to create conditions under which a Black or working-class community could feel at home,” Pitts says. “It’s important to take all these semiotic visuals and atmospheres and think, ‘How do I welcome people into this space?’” Pitts’ family helped bring the exhibition to life: his sister made a playlist from a local pirate radio station and a table for people to sit at, peppered with maps and family albums. His cousin constructed a model of Pitts’ childhood home; his niece and her friends helped with production. Creating a feeling of respite was important, and Pitts wants viewers to find resonance in his images beyond the artistic effort that brought them about. Appreciative visitors have contacted him to say: ‘I was looking through your family albums, and I remembered having wallpaper like that’. “Those little touches,” says Pitts, “mean everything to me.”