Tricia Porter: Liverpool Photographs 1972-74

Bluecoat Arts Centre, School Lane, L1
Till 5th July 2015

Reviewed by Steve Lamb

This is the latest photography exhibition to appear at one of Liverpool’s most loved modern art venues, The Bluecoat. It features candid portrait and street photography from Toxteth (aka Liverpool 8) in the early 1970s.

The shots are affectionate and reflect the gritty reality of multicultural Liverpool. The choice to shoot in black and white was wise and adds to the timelessness of the work; the only dated element is the fashions.

Where Tricia Porter has especially succeeded is in the total lack of sentimentality. These great shots simply document people living life in what was (at the time) a deprived area of a neglected northern city. Liverpool has thankfully experienced a resurgence since these pictures were taken but not before the riots nearly 10 years later.

Thinking about these pictures as a kind of riot ‘prequel’ adds another historical dimension. This socially tumultuous time preceded Margaret Thatcher and Geoffrey Howe’s planned “managed decline” of our city. The exhibition shows the real lives that would have been abandoned by the government if Thatcher had really let the rot set in.

From a personal perspective, I have just moved to Toxteth from Birkenhead so this exhibition was of particular interest. For anyone who knows the area they will enjoy picking out places they know.

However, you don’t need a local connection to enjoy this exhibition. It should be on the to-do list of anyone interested in photography and urban history. Some of the characters and faces on show are priceless.

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