, Wood Street
(14th April – 2nd July 2007)
Controversy, it seems, is a familiar shadowy face of art and ‘The
Water’s Edge’ reflects this realism vehemently.
For the 800th anniversary of the founding of Liverpool city, this presentation
of images by Cape Town native Michelle Sank was commissioned and produced
in dual time with ‘Working at the Edge of the World’, a unique
archive of feminine stories of reminiscence. For the photographer’s
part, this project had a brief to ‘represent women working on or
around the Liverpool waterfront’ from as long ago as 1939 to the
Perhaps without sensitive foresight and in the fog of the port waterfront,
the representation however has pulled political bells and created steam
in its focus of past and present workers, sacked dockers and inevitably
‘supplanters’, who crossed the picket line and worked during
the mid 1990s dockers’ strike.
Although contention casts umbrage over this collection of portraits,
obligatory consideration must be given to the artist in her effort to
accomplish what she was commissioned to do; that is, to produce a series
of portraits of women who work (or worked) at the Liverpool waterfront.
In fairness, this South African-born photographer could not have pre-empted
the debate her subject matter would cause. Nevertheless, whilst Sank has
obviously perfected the art of a perfectly focused, exposed and colour
balanced print, in ‘real’ terms there resides a banality about
What these portraits lack is connective background workplace imagery,
which would have given further locative authenticity; glossed and ‘flash’
modernised subjects suspend in an unrelated timeline zone, making this
repertoire rather mundane. However, there is one quirky print titled ‘Mary-Jane/Good-time
girl’. The sitter, in wanting to remain visually anonymous, has
turned to allow only her back to be photographed. Possibly indicative
of how steadfast Liverpudlians may feel about this city collection?