Almost every Saturday between 1978 and 1999, Tom Wood travelled from his home in New Brighton by ferry and bus to Great Homer Street market, just outside Liverpool city centre in the North West of England. He would spend the morning there photographing the mothers and daughters, kids dressed in matching blue and lilac tracksuits, teenagers chatting away with their curly hair swept up into side-ponies, and grandmothers haggling for of a string of pearl necklaces or a second-hand coat. In the afternoon he’d travel on to either Everton or Liverpool football ground, then back on the bus and ferry, taking pictures every step of the way.
”God knows how many photographs I took,” he says. “When I first began photographing in Liverpool I was just overwhelmed by the people and the place. It was an exciting place to be, I fed off the energy there.”
Starting out in his father’s carpentry workshop, Ken Grant first pursued his interest in photography through a two-year technical course, studying with unemployed shipyard labourers in the mid-1980s. He’s now a respected documentary photographer who also teaches at the Belfast School of Art; as his work on New Brighton goes on show alongside his early mentors Tom Wood and Martin Parr, and BJP caught up with him on his approach to pedagogy
“I was the first to move to New Brighton, and it was by sheer chance,” says Tom Wood. “I studied fine art part-time [a Fine Art Painting BA at Leicester Polytechnic], then went back to the car factory where I had worked before. Then I found a job as a photo technician at the poly [now Wirral Metropolitan College, where he went on to teach], and we moved there in September 1978.”
Thus began a golden age for photography in New Brighton, which lasted until 2003 when Wood moved to his current home in North Wales. In the intervening 25 years, Ken Grant also lived in New Brighton from 1992-2002, studying for a spell at Wirral Met, and Martin Parr was based just 20 minutes away from 1982-1985. Between them the three photographers created a huge body of work on the seaside town, which is based just across the River Mersey from Liverpool in North England.