The Library of Birmingham today, 14 February 2013, announced a new commission from acclaimed artist and photographer Tom Hunter. Throughout February Hunter will work on location to create a new body of work that will explore and reveal spaces and places in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter and Colmore Business District, which are often hidden from public view.
The commission, a partnership between the Library of Birmingham, Colmore Business District, the Jewellery Quarter Business District and Birmingham City University, will result in a curated outdoor exhibition of approximately 50 new pinhole images between April and July 2013.
GRAIN, the Library of Birmingham regional photography hub for the West Midlands, is supported by Art Council England. Working with national and international partners, GRAIN will include research and development projects and a range of ambitious high quality opportunities all aimed to strengthen and sustain photography in the region. This commission is the first to be announced through the new GRAIN project and follows the announcement of a new Library of Birmingham photography prize, in collaboration with FORMAT International Photography Festival, in December 2012.
The project is a journey back into the country's industrial heritage and at the same time a personal journey into Hunter’s own history. Although Hunter was born and brought up in Dorset, his family has links with Birmingham. His grandfather, Thomas Henry Hunter, who ran Kings Heath Engineering Co, filed a patent No. 29923 [Class 146 (i)] in 1945 for improvements in appliances for filing papers, or filing cabinets as we now know them.
Tom Hunter said:
“Many of the buildings I have photographed so far are monuments to an 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 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. I’m looking forward to exploring the bustling Colmore Business District, and discovering and exposing some of the less-noted sights that make the area unique.
“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 photographic 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.” See the Findings Birmingham website.
Pete James, Head of Photographs at the Library of Birmingham, said:
“We are delighted to have been able to commission Tom Hunter to make a new body of work in Birmingham. Tom has chosen to use a pinhole camera, a simple square wooden box without a lens or shutter whose origins lie in the pre and early history of photography. Shooting on large format colour transparency film Tom has made some extraordinary images with an impressionistic quality which bring hidden indoor spaces into the public realm.”
A colourful landmark in Birmingham’s Digbeth is a mural artwork which sits between the Irish Centre and the Coach Station. Proudly bearing the inscription ‘From the shadow of Ben Bulben to the streets of Brum’, this is the latest in a series on this site to commemorate the enduring connections of the Feeney family with Sligo and Birmingham.