Saturday, 12 June 2010

All Zones Off Peak

This image is taken from Tom Wood’s All Zones Off Peak, a series of photographs taken from bus windows in Liverpool between 1979 and 1997 - years that exactly coincide with an unbroken period of Conservative government. At first glance they read like studies of the disenfranchised of the Northern inner cities. Wood’s bus journeys visually connect the regenerated areas of the city with more neglected, peripheral spaces: the declining high streets, areas of wasteland, cleared slums and abandoned houses of the inner-ring suburbs. But what is really interesting about Wood’s project is the slow-burning, cumulative effect of the series as a whole, a small selection taken from over 3000 rolls of film and 100,000 photographs. These photographs are not about capturing specific moments but the endlessly repeated routines and minimal, wordless communities produced by bus journeys.

Wood used a Leica camera with a quiet shutter and shot from the chest or stomach, allowing him to take photographs unobtrusively, in the manner of Walker Evans’s secretly-taken New York subway portraits. Rather than catching his subjects unawares, though, Wood reveals them in that semi-introspective, blank-faced mode we adopt in routine public spaces. All these unnamed people, absent-mindedly following their fixed timetables and prescribed routes – all inhabiting what Georges Perec called “the infra-ordinary,” the sphere of existence that lies beneath notice or comment, and within which “we sleep through our lives in a dreamless sleep”.

Mundane quote for the day: ‘Objects and words also have hollow places in which a past sleeps, as in the everyday acts of walking, eating, going to bed, in which ancient revolutions slumber.’ - Michel de Certeau