Review of The Friday Flickr Meet-up

Friday Flickr – Visit FACT, Open Eye, Chambre Hardman and 3345. Friday July 20 2007 by Stuart Ian Burns (Feeling Listless Blog)

I’ve just (baring a pizza for tea) returned from a flickr meet-up organised by Katie Lips in conjunction with the Bold Street Project. I hoped not to be too much of an interloper considering I haven’t yet managed to contribute any photographs to the project, but I’m intensely interested in everything and decided to get out and network a bit. First stop was the project’s exhibition itself at FACT and if you live in the area and haven’t had a chance to visit yet, you really should.

The screens within, spread throughout a vividly colourful three dimensional collage, collect together interviews with people connected with Bold Street either because they’ve worked within its shops or studied its history. I noticed my old colleague from work and author of the Pevsner Guide to Liverpool, Joseph Sharples, giving his thoughts which shows the depth of the research which has gone into the project. Fresh content is hopefully going to be uploaded next week, perhaps including my interview about blogging, so it’s probably best to go before then, obviously.

Next stop was to the Open Eye Gallery in the midst of Wood Street for an after hours talk from its director about its history. The original gallery opened in Whitechapel in 1977 before moving to the top of Bold Street for much of the eighties (in the building which now houses one of the Rapid Hardware furniture shops). I remember that spacious gallery and I’d say my interest in art was certainly helped along by passing in here whenever there seemed to be a new exhibition. The gallery moved to its current space in 1995, and although its lease it up soon there are plans for its survival well into the next few decades at least.

The current exhibition, Clinic, which runs until the 1st August is an interesting experiment in the presentation of photography. The gallery’s usual stock in trade is to have the physical items on the walls. This group show is instead projected as a series of slides in a variety of programmes increasing the volume of images that can be included creating something of a narrative which is in keeping the subject, an exploration of medicine with photographs of operations and hospitals and research labs. It’s not for the faint hearted and it is disconcerting to be confronted with images of places and people you’d hope you’d never have to meet — and a sobering reminder that we should be grateful that they‘re there anyway.

Up then to Rodney Street to the home of famous Liverpool photographer E. Chambre Hardman, preserved by the National Trust. Hardman ran a portrait studio in the city for over forty years, first in Bold Street then in these premises, where he lived with his wife, and worked until his death in 1988. Although he built something of a reputation and was able to support himself with these endeavors, his side project was landscapes and he created some of the most iconic images of Liverpool’s past including Birth of the Ark Royal, Mersey Tunnel Interior and my favourite, Museum Steps.

As you’d expect, entering Hardman’s home is like stepping back in time as the waiting rooms and studios, his parlour and kitchen, dark room and cellar have been recreated. What’s particularly noticeable is that each room has its own particular smell from photographic paper, chemicals, dust or just age. This isn’t a ‘stately home’ though and most of the furniture and appliances are from within living memory and the kitchen in particular looks much like my Gran’s from the early Eighties. Surprisingly, Hardman himself did not hang his own work on the wall, only showing examples to prospective clients as part of his business, so many of the walls are disconcertingly bare — but this is more than made up for in a discover centre and a small display room with an exhibition that changes annual and that this year includes those images of the city because of it’s birthday.

The night ended at the 3345 bar which according to its website “is a central social oasis designed for creatives and situated in the heart of Liverpool city centre and housed inside the famous Parr street recording studios. Regularly referred to as the epicentre of the Liverpool music scene we see our selves as a warm, welcoming and intimate establishment.