The Fab Collective’s latest exhibition, Collective Action, can be found in the atrium of the Capital building on Old Hall Street; a series of portraits and reportage based around the loose Call To Action theme of the Look 11 Liverpool International Photography Festival.
That broadly translates into a look at Liverpool’s diverse communities and their place in society – more pertinent than ever with a government pressing the ‘Big Society’ idea while ravaging charities and state and auxiliary services across the country – a paradox touched on by several of the photographers.
The first display to greet visitors will probably be Mark Maloney’s Uprising, a startling series of images covering anti-Gaddaffi protests in Liverpool shot in stark black and white. It lends a bygone aspect to the stills and brings to mind Toxteth ’81.
Many of the display boards feature photographs that focus on small communities in Liverpool, such as Terry Hindle’s portraits of Liverpool’s homeless. The portraits are not unsympathetic but leave the viewer in no doubt as to the physical and emotional toll a life on the streets takes.
The Whitechapel Centre features in some excellent images by Alan Cookson, illustrating the unseen work that goes on in society by people largely unsung and unacknowledged. The centre received a hefty funding cut this year.
More heartening images come in the shape of portraits of the A Better Crosby group, a number of people who have dedicated their time to seeing off an unsympathetic supermarket development and now seek to improve their area. Big society indeed.
On a not unrelated theme, the always-brilliant Peter Goodbody showcases Liverpool’s shopkeepers, always under threat by new developments and particularly timely with the opening of the largest Tesco in Liverpool on Park Road. We particularly loved Jaime’s Beauty Spot.
There’s some great spice of Liverpool life evident in Graham Morgan’s playful images of allotments. Amusing, well-composed and equally well-observed with some cracking captions. Hollie Edwards’ images of the Anatolian community capture a similar vibe.
Possibly some of our favourite shots are in Dave Brownlee’s Unbeaten Generation, a collection of portraits conveying good news stories about young people. They’re simply excellent photographs.
Away from home and the borders of Liverpool are some great images of travellers in a display simply entitled Gypo and shots from the Far East in Consecration.
More simply, some beautiful pictures of the people in Sam Bytheway’s life remind us that wonderful folk and stories can exist closer to home.
A welcome curio is Dock Entomology, a time capsule of the reconstruction of the Dock Road’s Bascule Bridge. Images are rendered on clay and coloured with red iron oxide to give the impression they’ve been carved out of the ground in an archeologist’s trench, an impossible record of the future from the past.
Some images didn’t work quite so well. Images of people involved with Urban Strawberry Lunch – the outfit behind the reuse of the bombed-out St Luke’s Church who, appallingly, received a complete funding cut – holding up signs protesting the decision are heavy handed, while images on Liverpool’s north-south divide, while well-shot, will raise a few eyebrows in Toxteth or Speke.
An intriguing and differing collection then, though we weren’t sure whether the theme was a little too broad and the number of images excessive. It’s not easy to get a handle on the theme without a little overarching curation, of which there was none evident in the atrium – and the fact that the envelope had been stretched so meant it was sometimes hard to connect one set of images with another.
Conversely, some of the editorialising that went with the separate displays felt unnecessary and sometimes a little clumsy. Less is usually more in such contexts.
Nevertheless, as a snapshot of Liverpool it certainly holds the attention and there is some excellent technique, skill and wit on show here. The images provide a valuable reminder that society isn’t something out there, beyond our doors, it’s everywhere we look.
1st Floor Atrium at The Capital, Old Hall Street
9am–6pm daily until June