Underpass, Yeovil, 2023


Doing the visual art thing in Yeovil
After a lean period, I have exhibited twice recently; one of these exhibitions is still under way. Having put paintings into a show at Art Bank in Shepton Mallet a few months ago, I was also invited to take part in a photography exhibition called ‘View of Yeovil’ at Yeovil Art Space.

Curator and photographer Carolyn Lefley got in touch, having found me via Somerset Art Works. I have a listing on there, which links to my website. Carolyn wanted to know if I had done any shoots in Yeovil. I had done some product and architectural shoots, back when I was a commercial photographer, but I had done nothing there for my own practice. And when I thought about that, it surprised me. Here’s why:

I come originally from Manchester and have always been interested in the streets of post/industrial cities and towns. I like the way the street becomes a canvas for expression: some of it corporate and official, some of it not. Streets are places of constant change and creativity, as ideas and buildings become outdated and values and appearances change. The wellbeing or otherwise of a place, efforts to scratch a living, the tension between what some people value and others do not, and efforts at control and resultant dissent are often writ large. And whereas much of Somerset is rural, and many of the photographs I have taken since moving here reflect that, Yeovil is a big industrial town with, arguably, more in common with the towns and cities of my native north than the rest of Somerset. So, I was delighted to be invited to take part in this show and to put right my previous neglect of Yeovil, a place rich with the kind of visual material that fascinates me.

As you would imagine, wandering around town, camera in hand, I shot a huge number of photographs, some better than others. The team at Yeovil Art Space chose their favourite and had it printed, and it is on display amongst the work of others at the Art Space. I won’t put that one on here, in case you are thinking of going and it might spoil the surprise. And I can only pick one for this page – that’s the way this website template works – but there are lots more I’m pleased with, which I might load on here or show elsewhere in the fullness of time.

I've chosen for this article a shot of people walking through a pedestrian underpass. Subways are curious places. They’re designed to keep pedestrians safe from fast-moving traffic – this one lies under a stretch of four-lane dual carriageway – but they themselves can sometimes be threatening and unpleasant places. One might also argue that they reflect a modernist fetishization of the motor car: vehicles take precedence, zooming unhindered in the daylight above, while those on foot take a subterranean journey in half-light and dubious air. The (in)famous subway sequence from A Clockwork Orange also comes to mind, and it is perhaps that iconic image of Alex and his droogs, and the unfortunate old drunk, that captures the moment when the modernist utopian dream ran most palpably into the dark reality of the human condition.

I would like to thank Carolyn and the team for inviting me and for choosing one of my pieces. The show runs until 8 July. Location:

Yeovil Art Space
Unit 23 Vicarage Walk
Quedam Shopping Centre
Ivel Square, Yeovil, Somerset
BA20 1EU