STEPHEN SHAKESHAFT: Liverpool People
18 September 2009 – 24 January 2010
Evocative images captured by top photographer Stephen Shakeshaft show a variety of Liverpool people from local personalities to major stars in everyday surroundings. The exhibition features about 70 photographs including unpublished gems alongside award-winning images amassed since the 1960s over decades of great social change.
Stephen, former picture editor of the Liverpool Daily Post & Echo, is renowned for his remarkable and varied studies of people including rich and poor, unknown and famous.
In this new exhibition he also reveals some of the secrets of his personal archive, displaying his talent for immortalising ordinary fleeting moments and reflecting the personalities of his subjects. Some may be friends and acquaintances but others he only met once.
Often these images were taken on the spur of the moment, between diary assignments which took Stephen throughout the length and breadth of Merseyside.
We see a street of terraced houses without vehicles where a flat-capped street cleaner uses his brush to keep things tidy. Stephen brilliantly captures the moment the man exchanges glances with two smiling children.
There is an eye-opening story woven into another everyday scene. A happy merchant seaman links arms with two women at Paddy’s Market. He’s just picked up a bargain on the clothes stall to take home. The smartly-dressed stallholder is Mrs White – mother of TV celebrity Cilla Black.
Cilla is seen with her husband and manager Bobby Willis cuddling on Lime Street. Others caught informally are Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, jazz singer George Melly lighting a cigarette and legendary MP Bessie Braddock in cricket pads. The rich mix of Liverpool characters includes barrow girl Lizzie Christian known to generations of shoppers not only for her fruit and vegetables but also her happy smile.
People are seen going about their daily lives, working and playing or just passing time. They inhabit a world similar but different from our own – a city going through great change.
Streets are being swept away and communities uprooted as Stephen records these changes through his studies of Liverpool’s remarkable people.
There is uncertainty – a woman cradles her dog as a fire rages in the background, old people sit in their condemned homes awaiting their fates.
Happy children find fun anywhere. A little girl frolics in foam floating from a city centre fountain, excited boys follow Minister for Merseyside Michael Heseltine around a housing estate and five kids enjoy lolly pops in a corner shop.
Political moments reflect the changing times – Prime Minister and local MP Harold Wilson speaks in a smoke-filled room, protesters stage an early anti-racism demonstration and workers occupy the doomed Meccano factory.
Betty enjoys her self-styled Paradise on a demolition site in the shadow of the Anglican Cathedral while an elegantly-dressed lady tends her tidy allotment.
Stompers gather outside the original Cavern club while a band is filmed on the famous stage.
Meanwhile a lost way of life quietly slips into history – women gossip in a public wash house and carters corral their magnificent horses on a major road.
Image copyright Stephen Shakeshaft