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Walker Art Gallery stages Photie Man retrospective

Photographer Tom Wood is holding his first major retrospective in Liverpool – in an exhibition which showcases evocative images chronicling the city at a time of change.

Photie Man: 50 Years of Tom Wood, at the Walker Art Gallery, brings together 50 years of photographs from the Irish-born Wood who moved to Liverpool in 1978 and spent quarter of a century living and working in the city.

His candid photographs capture strangers and neighbours as well as family and friends and brief moments in time, from shoppers at ‘Greatie’ Homer Street Market to match days at Anfield and Goodison, trips on the Mersey Ferries, park goers and family days out.

A series of the award-winning 72-year-old’s photographs from the 80s and 90s feature, including those from his 1989 book Looking for Love - a portrait of New Brighton’s Chelsea Reach nightclub and well-known bus photographs of 1998’s All Zones Off Peak, reportedly chosen from around 100,000 negatives.

They appear alongside rarely shown images taken at Cammell Laird shipyard, Rainhill Hospital and around Liverpool’s football grounds. The exhibition also includes his Irish work, made since the 1970s, together with recent landscape photography taken around his current home in North Wales.

Above: A slideshow selection of images from the exhibition. Top: 'Photie Man' Tom Wood.

Wood, who studied conceptual painting at art college, moved to Liverpool in 1978 when he got a job as a photographic technician in the art school at the then Liverpool Poly.

He would photograph people and places on his bus route to work and spend time on the Pier Head and other locations across Merseyside. In the beginning he often photographed people because they didn’t have their own cameras.

He also did some photography for Liverpool Playhouse over the 25 years he lived in the city.

He spent two days a week over six months going through some of an estimated one million negatives and contact prints with head of the Walker Charlotte Keenan to choose the images for the exhibition which is divided into decades and also grouped into genres and subject matter through three gallery spaces which are divided into smaller ‘rooms’.

Each section also features a video screen with a revolving series of extra images, many of which were recreated by photographing original negatives.

Above: Self-portrait, early 1970s

Wood, who says he took tens of thousands of photos on his commutes by public transport as ‘training’ in the way a musician or footballer practices constantly to hone their skills, adds: “I didn't want a show for myself or my career, but rather to give the work back to the city where it belongs.

“I can't think of a better venue for these photographs than the Walker Art Gallery. Many a time I would visit – after the markets, after the football – to walk around the galleries and unwind.

“The energy of Liverpool and its people has informed all this work; it was everywhere I went, everywhere I looked. All I was doing was tapping into that. It has been a real labour of love.”

Charlotte Keenan, who has curated the exhibition, says: “Through his photography in Liverpool and Merseyside, Tom Wood offers visitors from the local area the opportunity to revisit many recognisable people and places from our history.

“I’m thrilled to be hosting this exhibition at the Walker, which will be a celebration of Tom Wood’s career – offering followers and newcomers alike the opportunity to take a more in-depth look at his work.”

Photie Man is at the Walker Art Gallery until January 4, 2024.

Entry to the exhibition is £9 for adults with concessions and young people’s tickets available. And on the first Sunday of each month, people living in the City Region will be able to enjoy half-price entry.

More details and tickets HERE


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