Open Eye Gallery’s latest exhibition, The Pier Head, captures a slice of Liverpool-Merseyside history in rich anecdotal detail, through a selection of rarely seen images by the acclaimed British photographer Tom Wood.
Wood spent 25 years living in New Brighton (Merseyside). On most days throughout the 70s and 80s, he travelled between his home and The Pier Head (Liverpool) on the Mersey Ferry, photographing the familiar faces he encountered on this regular commute.
Today, the main forms of passage across the river are by car, bus or train. Yet the Mersey Ferry once served as a key transport link for the area, and the 1-kilometer journey from shore to shore provided a rare transitory time and space in which people of all different types would relax, move about and come together. The photographs within the exhibition capture intimate moments between friends and families, spontaneous interactions between disparate social groups, and the changing fashions of the time; Wood’s familiarity with his subjects allowing him to portray them at ease.
The late, inimitable art critic, writer and artist John Berger described Wood as having a unique ability to enter into “the profound, popular, often inarticulate but deeply human life” of the people he photographed. Adding that his work protected “a Merseyside that is now eloquent and forever unloseable.”
Wood was also working at a period of significant change for photography, and experimented with a variety of cameras, film types and printing papers throughout his career. As such, The Pier Head not only offers a fascinating window into the social history of the region, but also an opportunity to experience the development of a medium, and the work of a true innovator.
Wood continued photographing his journeys across the Mersey up until 2003 (when he moved to North Wales) amassing over 1000s of rolls of film overall, over 90 of which have been selected for public display.
The exhibition is also accompanied by a project called Ferry Folk by artist and producer Liz Wewiora, which explores life aboard the Mersey Ferry (now a popular tourist attraction) and around its terminals today, providing a through-provoking counterpoint to Wood’s work.