All posts tagged: Birmingham

All change, yet again.

I was in Birmingham last week, the city of my birth. And just to remove any confusion, I’m talking of Birmingham in the West Midlands of England. Every time I visit there has been change. The city seems incapable of standing still for just one minute. Perhaps that’s how it should be, afterall, Birmingham is known as the driver behind the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19thC. and was for many years, the home of manufacturing in the UK earning it the aphorism of “The City of a Thousand Trades”. It’s not an old city. Its growth, fed by the industrial revolution, came as a result of hundreds of thousands of ‘immigrants’ from the farming communities in surrounding counties. My own forebears on both sides were “Aglabs”, agricultural labourers, from Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, together with true ‘immigrants’ from Ireland. Birmingham is a crucible, and always has been. With that growth comes continual change. As a reason for change, added to that of growth, is development – in the shape of technology, working methods etc. …

Our rosy coloured past. Hmmm.

This picture is of a house in front of one of the gas holders at Saltley Gasworks in Nechells, Birmingham. The image was taken in the late 60’s. I was born just a couple hundred metres from here, within sight, or more accurately within ‘Smell’ of the gasworks. My dad worked there after he came back from fighting with the Desert Rats, Montgomery’s 8th army, in second world war. What’s more, those gas holders were nearly the death of him. He fell off one and survived, but that’s another story. This image is a picture of my youth. Although my parents moved to the newly built council estates out in the suburbs, many of my relatives lived in or around this area. I would return often as a child. What this image made me think about was just how much of a product I am of the social and political thrust occurring after the 2nd world war. I am the product of the time and of the policies of Labour, the  political party in power …

Perishing shrines

Work by Lisa Ross. Lisa Ross is a New York based artist. Her work in this exhibition shows images of holy sites of its indigenous Muslim Uyghur population in the Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, western China. The exhibition is beautiful. Any pictures of the show, even those on the gallery website, and my small attempt by way of illustration of the elegant basement of the Argentea Gallery above, fail to portray the glorious reality of the prints. They exude a quality of light which is mesmerising. As a photographer I stood in front of the images admiring the sheer technical expertise of the photographer and of the printer. If that is all you go to see this show for then so be it. You will not be disapointed. However, these are not chocolate box or even travel images. There is another aspect to the images. They document part of a way of life of the Muslim population of this part of China which is under threat, indeed these shrines no longer exist and access to …

Just a little of Birmingham’s brutalist architecture.

Three Brutalist building in Birmingham. Two of which have gone. The first is the now-demolished Birmingham Central Reference Library designed by John Madin and constructed in 1974. It lasted 41 years before its recent destruction. The second is the signal box at New St Station (comprising 2 images), designed by Bicknell & Hamilton and W.R. Healey and completed in 1965. This is listed and so remains. The third is 103 Colmore Row, the Nat West Tower, as it was known. Designed by John Madin. It opened in 1975.  It was demolished in 2015-16 and is to be replaced by another, taller tower.

Fairground attraction 1970’s

Back in the late 1970’s, I would wander around my home city of Birmingham, camera in hand. At the time it was all Black-and-White work, self-developed and printed in a makeshift darkroom. I had different cameras to choose from, nothing exotic. I used twin lens reflex and 35mm. These images were from my 35mm camera probably on *400asa film hence the grain. *(I must check as I have the original negatives somewhere) The images below were from a sojourn to an impromptu fairground, many popped up like this around the city. This one appeared in Hay Mills, adjacent to the A45 near to Small Heath.

Full Circle.

An exhibition of Images by Emma Bowater and James Millichamp. Taking their inspiration and source images from the built environment, particularly urban decay and dereliction these two artists have worked to produce the images for this show. At first glance, you would imagine this exhibition is by one artist, such is the consanguinity of their approach to the work and the resulting images. The exhibition notes speak about their images much better than I could, so… “We have always shared a fascination for the built environment, and particularly urban decay and dereliction. Over the past year we have been working together to exploit this theme through various processes, cross-pollinating and stimulating each other’s practice. Through painting, drawing, print and cyanotype we aim to capture the atmosphere of a space, alluding to the history lost through the process of decay. A disused building can act as a symbol for the temporaneous nature of mans’ achievements, or as a metaphor for emotional abandonment. Through the works, we seek to document the vacant and transient environments of architecture. …