The last time we spoke to Si Barber, he was pointing his camera at austerity Britain in a series of photos taken from 2007. We've already written about why people like grim-looking photos of the UK, but this was about more than that. He was using photography to document a population made to bail out its banking sector, under the government's rallying cry of everyone tightening their belts and pulling their socks up.
Now, he's moved onto royalty. Well, of a sort. "One day I happened upon a crowning of a carnival queen by accident, and it seemed so unusual and anachronistic I was surprised that such a thing still existed," he says. "After the crowning, the new queen was required to undertake a number of ritual activities to confirm her new position – one of which was to milk a wooden cow. It set me wondering whether it was a one-off or whether such things existed in other parts of the country."
And so he decided to find out. Over three years, the Norfolk-based photographer drove 12,000 miles around England snapping shots of small-town carnival kings and queens, for a series he now calls Queens of Lesser Realms. "Years ago every small village and town had an annual carnival usually with a king or a queen nominated by the community," he says, "but they began to die off as society became more mobile and with the advent of television and other distractions. The recession in 2008 and the advent of social media dealt them another blow and they only tend to exist in isolated rural areas now, and places with a strong sense of community."
Along the way he saw some weird things – a teenage boy dressed as a "member of the Gestapo, complete with knee length boots and a Swastika armband" – and met a load of the eccentric, devoted punters and carnival royalty.
"I decided to stop when I had shot 90 kings and queens as it would dovetail nicely with the Queen's 90th birthday," he says. "It seemed to come to a natural conclusion. I sent a copy to Buckingham Palace in time for her birthday but I didn't get a thank you. Maybe that was because I pointed out that whereas she inherited her crown and privileges the carnival kings and queens have to earn theirs by doing goods works in their neighbourhood."
Here are some more photos from the series