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Interview with Jim Mortram – Small Town Inertia


Recently Darren brought to my attention a guy in the UK doing something extraordinary. A project with images so emotion filled and powerful, images that reach into the souls of the people in the photographs and brings them out in the image. I reached out to him and asked him for an interview and he was most gracious to agree!

So I’m proud to share this with you. Jim Mortram and his Small Town Inertia project. The interview is a bit long, but I promise you it’s worth it as we cover a gamut of topics and look through many of his images. If you want to learn about doing photography not as a technician, but as a human being. Photography for the sake of just doing photography and capturing people’s stories – I encourage you to listen.


Watch and learn as Jim and I discuss a ton of different photography related things, and a few more deeper philosophical, life things. There’s some good lessons in here – make sure you watch the whole video. Tell me what nugget of information you get. Here are a few of the topics and highlights of our chat:

  • shooting with your heart first and your camera second
  • listening to people, “shut up and listen”
  • creating a legacy of the people in your photos (not subjects, listen and find out why I’m not using that word)
  • how he defines himself not as an artist but as a conduit or facilitator to get people’s message across
  • that it’s about mutual trust between photographer and person being photographed, trust is key to the afore mentioned success
  • thoughts on gear and why Jim believes everyone should be forced to start with a crappy camera – by law
  • get a bad camera and learn to get the best out of it, then advance – cameras are just tools
  • a camera doesn’t give you any special rights or power – the rules of behaviour still apply

“be nice, be attentive, give a damn, listen”


More nuggets from Jim Mortram:

  • be really interested in people, their hopes and dreams – otherwise you’re just going to get a picture of someone looking at a camera
  • motives – if you start looking for accolades it will change the relationship with that you do – photography
  • the story doesn’t stop when you’ve pressed the shutter or edited the images
  • why posting photos on Facebook just to get likes isn’t why he does photography, he just wants to be himself and why you want to do the same
  • think about the things that matter to you the most before starting any long term projects, especially if it involves another person

“I talk more than I shoot and I listen more than I shoot” – Jim Mortram

We reference a guy named Simon in the video – here are some images of Simon. You can read about his story on Small Town Inertia here.





Another one of the stories on Jim’s site that touched me was that of David. A man who lost his eyesight in a tragic accident and depended entirely on his elderly mother for everything, and then suddenly she was gone. The story of his struggles are very real and gut wrenching and I was pulled in to read more. Obviously others have too as a fundraiser was done to buy David a book scanner so he could “read” again. See if his image and story speak to you as well – read more on David here (he is in the image the top of the article also)


Final goodbye

Final goodbye


Following Mother

Following Mother


Find Jim online and connect with him. Tell him is his images spoke to you as they did to me.

Links to other interviews with Jim:

Read more about respecting the people you photograph here on dPS.

Trailer that we mention in the interview where Simon talks about wanting a camper van (RV) and his eyes light up, bringing me and Jim to tears.

Small Town Inertia : A Prison Without Walls : Teaser_Full from J A Mortram on Vimeo.


Si shares, in his own words, his ADHD, his experiences of life confined by parameters and self medication, and his endurance, fears and dreams whilst living on the fringe.

‘A prison without walls’ was one of a selection of short documentary films commissioned The New British and screened Friday, 27th of September, 2013 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, United Kingdom.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Darlene Hildebrandt
Darlene Hildebrandt

is an educator who teaches aspiring amateurs and hobbyists how to improve their skills through free articles on her website Digital Photo Mentor and online photography classes. She also teaches all about photo editing using Lightroom, Photoshop, and Luminar Neo and has courses available on all three.

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