Hit the North Hobo Photo

In a new ex­hi­bi­tion, arts or­gan­i­sa­tion presents a se­lec­tion of fas­ci­nat­ing north­ern-based pho­tog­ra­phers, as Oliver Atwell dis­cov­ers

Amateur Photographer - - 7 Days -

You could of­ten be for­given for buy­ing into the idea that art and cul­ture is a purely Lon­don-based af­fair. It’s been a bone of con­tention for many years from artists and or­gan­i­sa­tions across the coun­try, who feel like they are hit­ting their heads against a brick wall as they at­tempt to pen­e­trate the Lon­don-cen­tric cov­er­age af­forded to mu­sic, art and lit­er­a­ture. With that in mind, it’s al­ways a plea­sure to en­counter an or­gan­i­sa­tion that is com­mit­ted to ex­pos­ing artists that ex­ist out­side the cap­i­tal’s sphere and is ded­i­cated to pro­mot­ing the ex­haus­tive wealth of tal­ent that ex­ists fur­ther north. Hobo Photo is one such or­gan­i­sa­tion, and the ex­hi­bi­tion ‘Hit the North’ brings to­gether eight pho­tog­ra­phers, all of who are based in or around Manch­ester.

Of course, Manch­ester has an in­cred­i­bly rich his­tory of tal­ent in the arts, so it’s not sur­pris­ing to see that the pho­tog­ra­phers rep­re­sented in ‘Hit the North’ are fo­cused on pro­duc­ing im­ages that are chal­leng­ing and vi­tal. Hobo Photo’s aim is to not only pro­mote new work, but to also high­light older work that in some cases may have fallen a lit­tle un­der the radar. On dis­play you’ll find a va­ri­ety of gen­res, in­clud­ing por­traits, land­scapes, still life and doc­u­men­tary. Each project – each im­age, in fact – has some­thing vi­tal to say about not just its im­me­di­ate sub­ject, but also the con­text sur­round­ing it.

One of the im­me­di­ately strik­ing projects comes courtesy of Daniel Mead­ows; this project was for­mu­lated in 1972 when he was still a stu­dent at Manch­ester Polytech­nic. Just down the road from the col­lege – Moss Side’s Graeme Street, to be ex­act – Mead­ows found a dis­used bar­ber’s shop and hit upon the idea of us­ing it as a pho­tog­ra­phy stu­dio. Once he’d set up a func­tional and min­i­mal in­te­rior, he be­gan invit­ing passers- by and friends to have their por­traits taken for free. Mead­ows then put up the im­ages in the shop win­dow and gave each sit­ter a free print. Un­for­tu­nately, he soon ran out of money, so was forced to shut shop. Feel­ing dis­heart­ened, he did what any of us would do in the same sit­u­a­tion – he laid the im­ages out on boards and nailed them to a tree in a park. He ob­vi­ously did

‘Mead­ows laid the im­ages out on boards and nailed them to a tree in a park’

the right thing be­cause, in the fol­low­ing years, his work found its way into sev­eral ma­jor col­lec­tions and ex­hi­bi­tions and he is now seen as an im­por­tant fig­ure in the post- war pho­tog­ra­phy scene.

An­other por­trait project that is fas­ci­nat­ing to study is Chris Har­ri­son’s

Un­der the Hood, made in 1994, which con­sists of a se­ries of por­traits of young men from the Sal­ford area. In other cir­cum­stances, through the eyes of an­other pho­tog­ra­pher per­haps, th­ese men could eas­ily have been made to look fierce and con­fronta­tional. Ba­si­cally, any­one else would have made them look as work­ing class as pos­si­ble. How­ever, Chris takes the set and light­ing mo­tifs of Re­nais­sance por­trai­ture and el­e­vates his sub­jects, im­bu­ing them with bor­der­line vul­ner­a­bil­ity and dig­nity.

Also rep­re­sented in this ex­hi­bi­tion is Phoebe Kiely, a more re­cent pho­tog­ra­pher who has al­ready seen her work dis­played at the Tate Mod­ern and Open Eye Gallery in Liver­pool. Kiely’s haunt­ing and strange im­ages of ev­ery­day ephemeral scenes are all shot on film and printed in a dark­room. This ana­logue process does much to en­hance Kiely’s beau­ti­fully odd slant on the world. Each frame re­quires real at­ten­tion. You won’t al­ways know what you’re see­ing, but you’ll want to keep look­ing.

Un­for­tu­nately, there isn’t enough space here to do jus­tice to all the par­tic­i­pat­ing pho­tog­ra­phers. Suf­fice to say, everyone’s work is more than wor­thy of in­clu­sion, whether it’s Liza Dracup’s Dutch-in­spired taxi­der­mied still-lifes, Matthew Mur­ray’s un­usual and other-worldly land­scapes or Tessa Bun­ney’s del­i­cate flo­ral im­ages that ex­plore the do­mes­tic flower grow­ers of north­ern Eng­land.

Al­lium Cristophii, 2017, from the se­ries Farmer Florist by Tessa Bun­ney

The Three Lads, Sal­ford, 1994, from Chris Har­ri­son’s se­ries Un­der the Hood

Chew Piece Plan­ta­tion, Sad­dle­worth Moor, 2016 by Matthew Mur­ray

Daniel Mead­ows’s Group Por­trait, 1972

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