Day trip to Liverpool / by Neil Alexander

Task for this week, was to visit one of two exhibitions. Either Open Eye in Liverpool or Impressions in Bradford. I figured I would pick Liverpool as I could get over there for dawn, the forecast was pretty good, and get some shots in before the gallery opened. The day didn't start too well as the baby was awake at 5, and I ended up getting over there around half 7. Light was great for the 10 minutes it took me to get out of the car park and find something worth photographing. Then it clouded over. Wandered around for ages laden with equipment hoping that the light would improve. I've not been over there for years (I think the last time was probably a Charlatans gig around 2000 when I met all the band before I started DJing for them), so it wasn't too unpleasant an experience. There is some amazing architecture here contrasted by a plethora of really run down areas. The Edge Lane area shows plenty of potential for a future visit and there are loads of abandoned and boarded up buildings that would make some great images. The architecture in the city centre is pretty impressive too, and not just the Liver buildings.

I did manage to pluck of the courage to ask a young Iranian Big Issue seller if I could take her picture. She was very pretty and in a great location. I hope it will turn out as well as the image in my mind! Am not great at his business of taking pictures of strangers, though I feel that in order to improve my photography, I need to push myself in this area. So I was really chuffed with myself that I managed this. I may do some kind of series of either imigrant workers, or Big Issue vendors in the future to force me to push myself.

Anyway, the exhibition. It was called "Bound": "Bound is a group exhibition exploring human enslavement from historical references to modern day bondage. The exhibition curated by Predrag Pajdic is showing works of international artists representing personal perspectives on the physical and psychological impact of slavery on humanity." The works on show (there were 15) consisted of both video and photographs. The film I was not particuraily taken with. It felt a bit too "arty" to really say anything about the topic. There was one piece of video that did actually interest me though. It was a filmed documentation of a American Palestinian artist Emily Jacir's daily walk from her home in Ramallah to work at Birzeit University, passing through Israeli army checkpoints. She films it secretly through a hold in her shoulder bag, as when she tried to do it openly, the Israeli soldiers threw her American passport in the mud, and took the camera from her. Interesting stuff, though again not quite sure how it relates to the topic. For me, the photography was also tad on the uninteresting side. But again, one piece did stand out. It was a series called "Missing" by Rachel Wilberforce. It was a series of photographs taken of crime scenes in which people have been transported and held in slave like conditions for sexual exploitation and forced labour in the UK. What immediately struck me with these was the use of colour, more specifically the colour red. There was a dominance of red in every picture. From lamps to wallpaper, it was as though she used the red to convey the feel of the Red Light districts. The lack of people in the photographs produce a feeling of isolation on which is thrown a bizarre warming twist with the deep use of red. The dark hidden depths of an open elevator starkly contrast against the dominant warm red wall tiles in one. A bright white radiator which leads from the haunting shadows into a welcoming bright red lamp down a corridor in another. All make for some quite good and interesting stuff.

Worth a visit if you're in the neighbourhood, but don't travel any great distance really. The "Missing" series stands head and shoulders above the rest, so its worth it for that I guess.

As a postscript, I have got my hands on a room that I can use as a "darkroom". It needs a little work doing as from appearances, it was last used at least 20 years ago! Oh, and it was a hairdressers, so you get my drift…..About £500 should see it presentable. It would be nice if I could also use this space as a studio, so I'm trying to work out a way of combining the two. Whether its tables that hoist up into the ceiling or just collapsible tables, I'm not sure just yet.