Liverpool is all about photography right now. There are so many great exhibitions to see at the moment in the city; Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr, for example, at The Walker (running until June) and Tate Liverpool’s super ground floor display of György Kepes’ photograms, the first in the UK. Also open this month is the city’s annual photography festival LOOK/15 which runs an extensive programme of exhibitions and events all over Liverpool from 15 May to 31 May. Click here for the full programme.

  Children playing in the sea at New Brighton “We’d all be sitting on the sand and we’d go in the water, but not too far out, just a paddle.” Betty Jamieson, Kensington Fields Community Association

 

Children playing in the sea at New Brighton

“We’d all be sitting on the sand and we’d go in the water, but not too far out, just a paddle.” Betty Jamieson, Kensington Fields Community Association

Also on show right now is ‘Our Day Out’, an exhibition of the work of Keith Medley who worked as a professional photographer in the 1960’s. It features as part of the LOOK programme but has been open since November 2014 at the Museum of Liverpool and runs until September of this year. The show “seeks to capture the essence of a family day out” and features an array of shots taken by Medley in New Brighton, a favourite destination at the time for holidays and days out. The premise of the show may sound a little flimsy but this not just about Medley’s photographic output. The way in which the Museum of Liverpool approach their exhibitions is like a social history project, they want to tell a story, it’s not just about displaying work. This was made especially clear in the April Ashley exhibition (former Vogue Model and one of the first people in the world to undergo gender reassigment surgery) which closed in March this year. The way the museum collected stories both from her life and the experience of the LGBT community in Liverpool was impressive and engaging. I visited twice and both times the museum was filled with families, many of which I saw later in the Ashley exhibition and overheard having conversations about some of the LGBT issues on display. Children and adults having honest, curious, and non-judgmental conversations about issues around a transgender woman. That’s got to be a good thing. Anyway, for ‘Our Day Out’, the museum made (and is making) a call out for personal recollections of the resort in its heyday from the public and these feature alongside the prints, many of which have been taken from the Keith Medley Photographic Archive, at Liverpool John Moores University for the first time. Seeking, it says, to “build a rich archive of stories and memories from the mid 1960s and beyond”. The images from the show reproduced here come with the captions and quotes they are accompanied with from the exhibition.

Teenagers outside the Tower Ballroom “We’d get the ferry over and then the last boat home, then you’d have to bomb it for the last boat home – half eleven. Then you had to walk home from the Pier Head because there would be no buses or nothing.”  Molly Edmonds, Kensington Fields Community Association

Teenagers outside the Tower Ballroom

“We’d get the ferry over and then the last boat home, then you’d have to bomb it for the last boat home – half eleven. Then you had to walk home from the Pier Head because there would be no buses or nothing.”  Molly Edmonds, Kensington Fields Community Association

All places can be interesting in their own way, but personally I find New Brighton compelling. Once one of the premier North West seaside resorts, New Brighton once boasted a tower bigger than Blackpool Tower, a ballroom which hosted the Beatles and a rather nice pier. Growing up on the Wirral, I remember it as a run-down end of the line kind of place, full of horrific night-clubs where you would go if you wanted a fight after your 10 jelly vodka shots. It was also the spot we were taken to for some ‘fresh air’ and an ice-cream. Parents and grannies would look around the dated clothing boutiques (crochet, pastel blue cardigans, ‘ladies attire’) and we kids would get excited by the gaudy colours of the bucket and spades, beach balls, inflatable octopuses and bubble machines. Later in my teens it was the destination of choice when you wanted to dress up like Courtney Love and drink vodka on the beach. Later on it was the place your boyfriend would take you for fish and chips and hand-holding/joint smoking in the wind and rain. I spent every December birthday from 17 to 21 drinking a bottle of prosecco on the beach behind the fort until the tide came in. Martin Parr’s shots of the cafes and shelters of the sea front was a major influence in my work as I headed towards art school.

Donkey rides on the beach “Dad puts me on the donkey. Well only four or five steps into the trot round, I don’t know what I did, I’ve no idea to this day, but I must’ve worked myself around and ended up hanging onto the dear donkey by its tail.”  Doreen Hicknell, Poppy Centre, Anfield

Donkey rides on the beach

“Dad puts me on the donkey. Well only four or five steps into the trot round, I don’t know what I did, I’ve no idea to this day, but I must’ve worked myself around and ended up hanging onto the dear donkey by its tail.”  Doreen Hicknell, Poppy Centre, Anfield

I take this trip down memory lane because then I forgot about New Brighton, for many years, and on a recent trip back to the North West my aunt drove me there. This was not for fresh air or an ice-cream but because they had “done-it-up” and she needed to do an Asda shop. Now there is an enormous leisure centre, a Starbucks, several restaurants and a cinema. It seems a bit more civilised, or rather generic, and a lot less wild-westy than it ever did when I was growing up. It’s super that the town has not died a British seaside resort death like many others but I also feel just a little nostalgic for the days when vinegary chips were the staple and not La Tasca tapas. 

Watching the brass band “They had an open-air baths there as well and we used to take the children to the open-air baths. Since they’re grown up, I got grandchildren, so we repeated the procedure over and over.”  Ronnie Crone, Kensington Fields Community Association

Watching the brass band

“They had an open-air baths there as well and we used to take the children to the open-air baths. Since they’re grown up, I got grandchildren, so we repeated the procedure over and over.”  Ronnie Crone, Kensington Fields Community Association

Medley captures a different world and a different time. In many ways New Brighton is just the same, a place for escape and for the young. In his images children paddle in the sea and hang out in gangs at the funfair or at the Olympic-sized open-air swimming pool, Miss New Brighton was a big deal and one of the major events on the beauty pageant calendars. Medleys shots capture a golden time of New Brighton but documents just one golden time in the trajectory of the resort’s history. And maybe that’s what this project is about - memory rather than nostalgia. 

Norman Wisdom with Miss New Brighton “You know what, I always think about New Brighton, and so does me family, me sisters. My brother has passed on like, but we’re still here, and when we all meet together, we talk about where me mam took us in New Brighton.” Betty Jamieson, Kensington Fields Community Association

Norman Wisdom with Miss New Brighton

“You know what, I always think about New Brighton, and so does me family, me sisters. My brother has passed on like, but we’re still here, and when we all meet together, we talk about where me mam took us in New Brighton.” Betty Jamieson, Kensington Fields Community Association

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AuthorSacha Waldron

This week we talk to French photographer Y. Enö, whose portfolio focussing on some of the residential architecture of Martha’s Vineyard, I recently spotted on the ever brilliant L'Oeil de la Photographie.

Martha’s Vineyard is located off the coast of Massachusetts, South of Cape Cod, and is known as an affluent summer holiday spot. The population of the island expands considerably during the summer months and more than half of the hugely expensive properties are holiday homes, only occupied during the season. I know it best as where Fox Mulder’s parents lived in The X-Files and also as the location for scary Papier-mâché shark attacks in Jaws. It is, however, usually and more universally known as the holiday location of choice for various presidents and celebrities. 

Martha's Vineyard. © Y. Enö

Martha's Vineyard. © Y. Enö

So what drew Y. Enö to Martha’s Vineyard in the first place? “What touches me in Martha’s Vineyard is the paradox between roughness and superficiality” says the photographer “I think this is somehow symptomatic of our times. You can eat a sandwich of freshly caught lobster in the morning, served in an aluminium tray on a rusty barrel erected between two boats behind a fisherman’s hut, then later the same afternoon you can be playing golf or spending time at a yacht club. The series of Martha’s Vineyard houses symbolizes this ambivalence. On the one hand they are damaged, built of wood, with peeling paint… On the other hand, they are presented as regalia for their owners, they compete with exuberant colours and forms”

Martha's Vineyard. © Y. Enö

Martha's Vineyard. © Y. Enö

There is a sense of gothic grandeur about these homes which were built in the Carpenter Gothic or Rural Gothic style (also known as ‘Gingerbread Houses’). They are cross between the Adams Family, a gaudy Brighton beach hut and an iced cake. “While photographing them, printing them and putting them out of context, they look (as you suggest) like cupcakes, somehow kitsch” says Y. Enö “They are really genuine small works of art, riddled with humour, neighbourhood discussions, rivalry, love and life”

Martha's Vineyard. © Y. Enö

Martha's Vineyard. © Y. Enö

Martha's Vineyard. © Y. Enö

Martha's Vineyard. © Y. Enö

Y. Enö’s Martha’s Vineyard portfolio images are generally unpeopled, letting the architecture speak for itself “In my architecture reports, I let the script of my visit to take the lead, above the aesthetic of the building and the architect intentions. What matters to me is the stylized perception, the story” says the photographer. Several images outside of the main portfolio, however, do capture residents and visitors to the Island. “This photo for example” says Y. Enö “was also taken during my visit and shows, not only the houses, but two people, three dogs and a tree. I love the wary and quizzical look they are throwing at me, the viewer and photographer. The shadow of the tree, which takes most of the space in the picture has a meaning: it speaks of things upside down. This shadow asks us about what these people think. What is linking them? What do they tell to each other? What are they imagining?”

Martha's Vineyard. © Y. Enö

Martha's Vineyard. © Y. Enö

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AuthorSacha Waldron

This week’s image comes from Grete Stern. Stern is currently showing as part of MOMA’s just-opened exhibition ‘From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires: Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola’. This is the first major exhibition to focus on these two leading figures of avant-garde photography. “The exhibition begins in the late 1920s with each artist’s initial forays into photography and typographic design. In Berlin in 1927, Stern began taking private classes with Walter Peterhans, who was soon to become head of photography at the Bauhaus” says MOMA.

 Stern’s work is surreal, strange and delightful. Dream 28 shows a reptile creature sex-pesting a cute 1950’s debutant – she seems both horrified and intrigued by the situation she find herself in. 

Grete Stern, Dream 28, 1951 (printed 1995). © Grete Stern, Courtesy of Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York

Grete Stern, Dream 28, 1951 (printed 1995). © Grete Stern, Courtesy of Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York

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AuthorSacha Waldron