Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Photographed images do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, miniatures of reality that anyone can make or acquire.”

Susan Sontag

The Blackburn Orbital Route

This exhibition is about time. Frozen by the act of photography, the subject, an event, a person, a structure remains forever trapped within the frame, unchanging, and this is the fascination of photography, not the colour, not the patterns, not the delicate graduation of tone but the fact that something once existed and now is no more.

Old photographs intrigue us, we search them for hints, clues to who we were and where we came from. They provide an opportunity and an excuse to stare. In life you would never peer closely at the face of a stranger but when invited by a photograph you can look deep into their eyes, count the wrinkles. Presented on the wall or in the hand, the photograph invites you to look, to contemplate and perhaps to see for the first time things you would pass by in your busy life.

That is the point of this survey.

The entire project has been photographed within 1 mile of this exhibition room and almost everyone who sees the work will be familiar with the locations, but this may well be the first time they have had the opportunity or inclination to look.

When you are trapped by the traffic at the bottom of Montague Street do you notice the dappled shadows cast by the street trees, the delicate tones in the decayed masonry, the old signage and traces of the past in the derelict buildings – or do you just want to get home.

The images on the wall were made quite recently and already time has moved on – the trees have come into leaf, Freckleton Street bridge is about to open ... but this is how things were those days in the spring of 2008.

And these are the simplest of photographs. Made with a traditional view camera with no automatic features , just a box of variable dimensions with a lens at one end and a sheet of film at the other, no computerised gadgetry to impose its whim upon the photographer and the resulting images made chemically in the darkroom with no room for digital manipulation. These images therefore come as close as is humanly possible to photographic truth.

The picture themselves are silver gelatine prints made on fibre based paper, archivally toned with selenium and with care and good storage conditions should survive for a hundred years or more, and with them a memory of how Blackburn's orbital route looked as the final stretch of tarmac was laid.

Bob Singleton

1 comment:

Jane Warman said...

Bob, this is a really excellent Rationale - enjoyed reading it.