Yesterday was the launch of LOOK/13 The International Photography Festival in Liverpool. It was also the opening of Liverpool's Central Library after being closed for several years for a major re-fit and makeover. I somehow managed to inadvertently involve myself in both events by creating a book for LOOK/13 that is placed in four Liverpool libraries. I'll cover all of the locations over a few blog posts but thought I should start the ball rolling with the venue most people are likely to visit.
I didn't know until yesterday where my book would be placed within the library and was quite overwhelmed when I found it in the Picton Reading Room. The Library actually takes your breath away as you walk in, it's like no other library I've ever been in, it's spectacular and awe inspiring. It's on a vast scale and managed to make me think of it's illustrious history as well as exciting me with an example of what a contemporary library can be.
The Picton Reading Room is as one friend said "one of the most beautiful rooms I've ever been in". It's a complete circle with books extending all the way around, and more or less from floor to ceiling, lit by natural daylight flooding through a dome as well beautifully ornate light fittings. Somehow my project found it's way in to this space and seems to fit perfectly. Strangely the patterns of shelved books seem to mirror the Google Images grid that forms the starting point of the book. I'm so grateful to John Keane at Liverpool Libraries who despite being in the middle of a major library re-build and re-launch managed to find time to make my project fall into place.
Please visit, not just to see my book project of course but to experience this triumph of a library, which was packed to the rafters a few hours after these pictures were taken. It felt like most of Liverpool had turned out to see the new library. There's even an open-top roof terrace with 360 degree views of the city.
If you'd like more information about Searching, my project follow this link:
LOOK/13 opens today and my five books will be on display for all to see. They are such personal and understated objects that I hope they don't get lost in the spectacle. It's a strange sensation having invested many hours in their creation to hand them over and hope they start a life of their own in new homes in Liverpool. The theme for the festival is 'Who Do You Think You Are?', and my response was to Google my name. The Google Images result is shown above, which then formed the basis of my books. It's Google curating my work, so all of the images are mine, other peoples's that appeared have been black out and these blacked out shapes go into the book too. I made a small book that contains the images, which is hidden inside a 1950's encyclopaedia, linking contemporary ways of finding information with traditional methods. These have now been donated to four libraries in Liverpool - Central, Toxteth, University of Liverpool (which has two books, one on each floor) and Liverpool John Moores University. Instructions on how to find them below. Here is a link to my website and the official LOOK/13 site: www.marcprovins.co.uk/ http://lookphotofestival.com/ Here are some instructions for locating my books:
The book is located in the Picton Reading Room
UNIVERSITY OF LIVERPOOL
The two books can be found in the Sydney Jones Library on both the first and second floor link between the Abercromby and Grove Wings
The book is on the Lower Ground Floor of the Aldham Robarts building, outside Archives and Special Collections.
The book is located by the staff counter. Please note that Toxteth Library is only open Monday 10am-6pm, Tuesday 10am-6pm, Wednesday 10am-6pm Saturday 10am-4pm. Thursday and Friday the library is closed.
I had a thought provoking stroll on Tuesday around bits of Liverpool I'd never seen before. I visited Toxteth Library as it's one of the locations for my LOOK/13 book. It's right next to the splendour of the Anglican Cathedral. The library though is a gem in it's own right, opened in 1902 it is beautifully proportioned with a dome, all harking back to a time when libraries were an essential way of accessing information and central to a community. This description is from the Victorian Society website: "Red brick and stone trim. Symmetrical to Windsor Street, with two big Venetian windows under gables with obelisks, the main entrance with a far-projecting hood. Small cupola above. Two more Venetian windows to Upper Parliament Street. The former reading room (north side) contains a mural by W. Alison Martin and Clinton Balmer, an allegory with Knowledge enthroned; also a copper plaque in Celtic Art Nouveau style by C. E. Thompson, commemorating the opening by Andrew Carnegie." Just the fact that I could search and find that information in a matter of seconds from my sofa illustrates how our world has changed and how libraries are incredibly vulnerable in the present cuts climate. It seems very sad as the library was actually quite busy but busy with people who don't have much of a voice in our society. I explored a bit of the area around the library and was quite surprised at how derelict some of it was, being right on the edge of the city which on the whole is incredibly smart and apparently prosperous. Large swathes of unused land, a boarded up church with an empty churchyard and no one to be seen. It reminded me of bits of Birmingham when I moved there in the 1980's before the word regeneration had even been thought up. I suppose cities are constantly changing and adapting to the way in which life alters, but it feels like we are definitely living in a time of huge flux. Old models of behaviour are rapidly evaporating, whether this is how we shop, socialise, entertain ourselves or access information. So just one photograph that seemed quite pertinent, what looks like part of a washing basket in the middle of an abandoned patch of land with nature carrying on doing what it does, growing up through the middle and all around. We are right on the edge of the city here with the cathedral in view one way and the Mersey in view to the other. If you'd like more information about Searching, my book project for the libraries of Liverpool, please check these websites:
Anyone who reads my blog with any frequency or looks at my website will know that my home plays an important role in the pictures that I make. I'm interested in how we personalise our spaces, the gap between private and public as well as how and why we surround ourselves with 'stuff'. This little scene in our kitchen just seemed like such a perfect arrangement of the domestic that alluded to so much more - nature, nostalgia, memory, the exotic, foreign climes... All this from a tea towel on a radiator. If you are interested here is some more work I've done connected to the above themes: www. marcprovins.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/new-work.html www.marcprovins.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/home-alone_14.html
Yesterday was spent helping a friend choose and buy a wedding suit. Not an activity that lends itself to too much observational photography, especially when you're not allowed to reveal the outfit in advance of the do. However for a moment the sun came out and the shop was flooded with light, casting this perfect scene across the floor. It's not a black and white picture, there are some beautiful subtle colours tucked in there if you look. I like how the carpet gives the impression of film grain. The title of this blog entry refers to my nap in the car on the way back (I wasn't driving), a lovely term that my grandmother used to use, in her London accent. If you've never heard it before forty winks refers to a quick impromptu sleep, usually not in your bed. The modern equivalent is probably power nap which sounds much more macho and business-like. My grandmother, was a seamstress early in her long life so actually there is another link with picture too.
Believe it or not self promotion doesn't come easily to me. However I would like people to see my quirky little photography book project, so I've got to push a bit. This time next week, LOOK/13, The International Photography Festival will be opening in Liverpool and my books will be on display. They will be in Central, University of Liverpool, LJMU and Toxteth libraries - for addresses and more details have a look at my website: www.marcprovins.co.uk
Of course there is a huge programme of exhibitions and events all over Liverpool so have a look at the official site too: lookphotofestival.com/ I've included a few stills here of how the books work, but I hope you get to see them for real as they provide quite a tactile experience (I hope). See you in Liverpool!
This weekend we were in Nottinghamshire to celebrate the 75th birthday of my partner's mum. The journey back to Manchester takes a couple of hours through spectacular Derbyshire valleys and woods, and there's nothing like an awesome view to give a bit of perspective on life. I was thinking about Joan's generation and the admirable qualities they have and the changes they have experienced over the duration of their lives. Things that must have seemed etched in stone as certainties evaporating over the decades. Like many women of her age, she is completely selfless, putting everyone before her. She is about as non-materialistic as it is possible to be, not lusting or craving 'things'. She was born just before the second world war, growing up as a child in a time of austerity, then thrown into a period of nearly full employment as an adult. The roles of men and women were very distinct and clearly defined, for better or worse. The world was in many ways much more physical, most people's jobs were hands-on especially in this neck of the woods where mining was the main industry. People used the high street, walking from shop to shop rather than driving to a supermarket or ordering groceries online. The garden fence was the Facebook of it's day, and people still congregated in the local for a drink at the end of the day. If I was Joan I'd feel quite perplexed if not cheated by the world of today. The town she lives in had it's industry removed in the Thatcher years after a prolonged strike that caused hardship and conflict. This has led to an employment void for years leaving social problems still resonating today. The high street is more or less completely gone, the corporate vampire Tesco draining the last drops of strength by opening a huge two storey mega store on the edge of town. Ironically siting a statue of a miner at it's entrance. Many of the pubs have closed or are struggling to survive. The town is sadly a shadow of it's former self. However Joan and her contemporaries have experienced worse hardships and wouldn't dream of complaining. Personally I take inspiration from her values and attitude, and intend to be a little more like her from now on. Happy birthday Joan!
Life seems quite busy at the moment, all good things, but the simplicity of this scene appealed today. Almost meditative, a stark white circle in a dark grey rectangle, only the shadows of trees cutting across the picture. Okay, I'm so much calmer now!
According to Google Maps my bicycle commute to work (or work to home) is exactly 5 miles. Today I slung my camera over my shoulder and took pictures en route. The photographs are mostly from bike eye view, and you can see the weather improve as I progress. Google Maps reckons it should take me 26 minutes, well maybe it does but today was a little longer to allow for composition. I did it work to home, passing through Timperley, Sale, under the M60, Stretford and then Chorlton. The best bits are travelling down the canal, through three parks and one graveyard. If you want to see my route, try this:
I’m compelled to take photographs, I can’t stop, it’s not a phase I’ve been doing it all my life, well since being 13 or so. I can trace photographers in my family all the way back through the twentieth century so it’s obviously in the blood. It helps me see and understand, it’s all too confusing without that frame around it. I’ve managed to make it my life, I teach photography and I show my work as frequently as I can. If no one looked I’d still do it but I’d prefer to share my photographs, and luckily people seem keen to look.