Maria Bottomley née Drake

My Auntie Maria was the first black woman to run in Cheltenham local council election. Her campaign was not successful, winning only a small percentage of the votes. This was unfortunately not surprising in a largely white middle class tory stronghold that Cheltenham town was and still is today. For me that's not the important point, I feel very proud of my Auntie.

However, I only found out that she ran in this election when attending her funeral, a copy of her campaign leaflet was left on display in her home at the wake. Growing up I had know her more as a mother and wife, not much was told about her life before her marriage to my Uncle.

I wonder about what identity was lost with Maria's assimilation into my white family. Family structures like all institutions suppress difference and rely on conformity to create an appearance of unity. I have looked into our family archive to explore how these themes are paralleled within the medium of photography, the inherent whiteness and technological reliance on homogenous representation.

I wish I had asked her what it was like to be the only person of Caribbean descent in an Angelo/Irish majority family, I wish I'd found out more about her heritage, culture and life before the Bottomley's but I think I was also afraid of our differences and my own struggles with assimilation.

2021 -Work in progress

© Clare Bottomley