Interview with Si Barber, photographer and member of Artists for Brexit

Si Barber is a photographer whose work has been commissioned by The Guardian, Financial Times and The Telegraph. His superb editorial and documentary photography can be found at

Teenage Girls at Kings Lynn Market, Norfolk. © Si Barber

We talk to Si about work and life in a post referendum creative industry.

What path did you take to become a professional photographer?

It started out as a hobby. In my late twenties I got more serious about it so studied it at degree level at Blackpool College. You could get paid for going to college then (Imagine that!) After that I went to work at a news agency in Bradford to learn my trade before setting up as a freelance in Norfolk.

Much of your work has a documentary style, capturing the everyday life of “ordinary” people. To what extent does it reflect your decision to vote Leave?

I don't really believe there are 'ordinary' people. Everyone is unique – although of course I prefer some uniqueness to others, and some people's uniqueness I actively try to avoid!

Many of my pictures are taken around the coastal areas of East Anglia and my vote to leave was made after seeing the way EU policies have negatively affected those communities over the last few decades, in particular the fishing industry. Look at a map of England based on the referendum result and practically every coastal area voted to leave. People are not stupid, they know when they're being lied to. It's taken the Brexit vote for politicians to start listening.

Woman at Car Boot Sale with Dogs, Wiggenhall St Germans, Norfolk. © Si Barber


Have you found that being an artist but also a Brexit supporter has impacted you negatively in any way?

Not in the real world, but on social media I've taken a bit of stick, particularly as some of my clients are Remain supporting media organisations. A couple of people under the cloak of anonymity have taken it upon themselves to copy my Brexit supporting postings to those organisations, presumably in the hope they will no longer employ me. It didn't work, probably because rational people can accept that others might have valid viewpoint that is different to their own.

How do you feel about colleagues in the creative industry who feel unable to openly express that they voted to leave the EU?

For some people who voted Remain the result of the Referendum really rocked their world, and challenged practically everything they thought they knew about this country and its people. Some of those people are prominent in public life and their disappointment has clearly made them lose perspective. They have created an atmosphere where it has become acceptable to refer to people who voted for Brexit in the most appalling terms. Bearing that in mind it doesn't surprise me that some people who live in remain dominated areas are reluctant to speak up for fear of the mob.

It doesn't help that the art world and the liberal media in general tends to be a cabal of what George Orwell would call 'goodthink' – where certain political and cultural orthodoxies are accepted without thinking and where dissent from those orthodoxies is quickly stamped on.

Negotiating a Burst Water Main, Great Yarmouth. © Si Barber

Do you have concerns about the arts sector post Brexit?

I hope it gets leaner and fitter. I see a lot of poor work that gets funded because it fulfills some notional social criteria rather than getting funded because the work itself is top quality. Conversely a lot of work gets passed over because the people making it don't fit the funding model.

How, if at all, will your business change once we leave the European Union?

Business dislikes uncertainty, so there may be a short period of disruption, but I anticipate this will settle down quite quickly as people deal with the new reality – necessity being the mother of invention. Personally, most of my foreign sales are to countries outside the EU anyway, so I imagine they will be unaffected. The big advantage the UK has is that we never got sucked into joining the Euro.

Tea Towels on a Washing Line Depicting the Battle of Britain, Huntingdon. © Si Barber

What opportunities will Brexit bring to the creative community?

The Brexit vote has shown us that practically anything is possible. Who could imagine only a few years ago that we could even be having this conversation? We now have the opportunity to remake society in such a way that includes everyone's voice – not just the ones who can shout the loudest.

How do you think we can help to create a great post Brexit Britain?

If you look at the people who are promoting the negative view of Brexit they tend to be ex-politicians, media types and civil servants. They don't produce anything or employ anybody, but all seem to have done rather well for themselves out of the current arrangements. We should be listening less to them and more to people with ideas and plans on how we can thrive across the world's stage.

Graffiti on the A14, Cambridgeshire. © Si Barber