In January 2013 the internationally acclaimed artist and photographer Tom Hunter was commissioned to make a new body of work in Birmingham finding, exploring and revealing places and spaces in Colmore Business District and the Jewellery Quarter.
“For me this project is a journey back into the country’s industrial heritage and at the same time a personal journey into my own history. Many of the buildings I have photographed are monuments to this industrial past, showing us the fingerprints of working lives and the products that these endeavours created and from them a way of life and culture. I have always been attracted to these shrines from a disappearing world, a world my grandfather was meshed too, with his engineering company in Birmingham. A world I have explored through photography in Hackney Wick, where the industrial landscape became a playground for the dispossessed, and is now reincarnated as an Olympic wonderland.
All these elements have aligned themselves in this photographic essay, connecting my history to my country’s and Birmingham to Hackney. In the same way Alexander Parkes of Birmingham invented Parkesine, the base material of my film and took it to Hackney Wick to be mass-produced, I now take my pinhole photography back in time to Birmingham, to illuminate and document this very special place.”
Hunter employs a pinhole camera, a simple square wooden box without a lens or shutter, whose origins lie in the pre and early history of photography. The camera has a small hole at one end which allows light to seep onto a sheet of large format colour transparency film held at the back of the camera. He then uses these positive images to make exhibition prints with an intense, exquisite and impressionistic quality in which overall effect and atmosphere are the prime objective.
The exhibition of new work by Tom Hunter will be shown in the public realm over two sites, from 26 April – 19 July 2013. Church Street Square and St Paul’s Square in Birmingham will be hosting the exhibition, offering the visitor a chance to make their own journey of discovery on either side of the footbridge which links the two districts.
The commission is a partnership project developed by GRAIN at the Library of Birmingham with Colmore Business District and the Jewellery Quarter Business District, supported by Arts Council England, Birmingham City University and Metro Imaging.