October 2022 saw an opportunity outside of my comfort zone to go on a Photo Walk around Wolverhampton with Tom Hicks, the librarian from University Of Wolverhampton, who has an instagram project called Black Country Type (called BCT hereon in) on the go.
Tom runs his instagram page and adds images of scenes from the Black Country that he comes across on his bike or when he’s ambling around. They are usually colourful scenes showing age and deterioration alongside some examples of text, hence the “Type” in the name.
He was supported by The Modernist Society with this event and they had people there on site at the MK Building University Of Wolverhampton, the School Of Art. Tom was there with Claire Buckerfield from the Arts Faculty as she does an awful lot of work to spread the word about the school of art and keep it in people’s consciousnesses,
We sat down and had a discussion around why his BCT project started why it continues to be an outlet for his art to this day. he showed us a brief slideshow of some of his earlier work and some of his favourite pieces of work along with explanations of why each image caught his eye.
The crowd of people that were gathered in the George Wallis building’s foyer were mostly people from outside of the University, photographers and members of the Modernist Society who think that the beauty of modernist architecture is underappreciated. The MK building is a good example of concrete structures from the Post war modernist period also classed as Brutalist sometimes.
Once we’d seen his slides I’d bought a print of Tom’s that was a photo of Wolverhampton Station car park with the large BR logo on the wall. It caught my eye when he posted it on Instagram a while before so I took advantage of being there and picked one up. I did leave it there until after we returned from the Photo Walk though as I didn’t want to carry it around with me.
Let’s Go To Work
Tom then took the group on a walking tour of Wolverhampton City Centre, leaving the School Of Arts Building, heading down to the Banks’ Brewery site, the Express and Star buildings, a car park on Victoria’s Fold and around some of the rest of the more hidden streets that you’d not normally come across on a journey through the city.
Around my shoulder I was carrying my Canon 5D Mk IV with a. 24-105mm lens on it and didn’t take any other kit, except two batteries. I wanted to travel light, set myself a strict limit on gear to prevent me chopping and changing all the time and owing to it being a mixed bag I selected the 24-105. the 16-35 or 50mm I have would have been ok but I didn’t feel that it was going to be about the architecture today and mainly focussed on street photography style images.
As we walked around listening to Tom explain why he liked these areas, we were talking amongst ourselves and I got speaking to a few different people some of whom were retired, some were professional photographers and some just hobbyists. It was not my normal crowd of people to hang out with and the age range made it interesting to talk to them.
We had a few instances where someone would spot an image and then others might replicate it and whilst this annoys some people I don’t consider it as an issue. There was one image by the Express And Star offices where I caught an image reflecting off a car windscreen and once I’d left the scene I saw some others do the same shot. I was very happy with mine and wondered how there’s had come out, wondered if they’d done anything different that made it a better image..
We walked around the outskirts of the Wulfrun Centre and I loved the white verticals of the outside of the building stopping here to make a few images on my SD Card.
Once we’d gone around and got back to the School Of Art, tom took us up to the Archive and we could take a look at some of the historical documents relating to the building of the art school structure and previous incarnations of the school of art in Wolverhampton. It was interesting to me in the same way that we were researching the Flaxmill Maltings in Shrewsbury as we were wandering around there for the “Friends”.
Once I’d got home I set to download the images into my Lightroom library and then pep a couple up before posting to Instagram.
It was a valuable experience as I got to know Tom and Claire a bit better, spent some time with people who are like minded and also got to see parts of the city that I would return to ( a couple of weeks ago) to revisit some of the locations. I met a few other people who I have linked to on social networks and find their output fascinating as well as them seeing some of my work now and again. I hate the term “networking” as I was forced to use it a lot in a previous position but it’s undoubtedly an opportunity that I would have been mad to pass up.
Some of the images Tom makes I find fascinating, some of them I like to think could have been used by me as influences for some of my own images and the involvement of the text in his images was something that probably hadn’t occurred to me before I came across his account.
A couple of weeks later the Modernist Society did a talk at the Wolverhampton School Of Art and I was all set to go until they had to reschedule due to Rail Strikes. The rescheduled event was on a day when I had a meeting with some US colleagues so was unable to attend. One of my classmates said he enjoyed the talk and seeing the images presented, whilst another said that it was a couple of hours of her life she wouldn’t get back. Nice, but at least it shows that this sort of art is subjective and not for everyone.