artist / participant
Working primarily on the street and in pubs and clubs, Wood photographed the public face of New Brighton, across the river from Liverpool, from the late 1970's until he moved away in 2003. For much of his time in Merseyside, Wood worked with portraiture ranging from refined, tonally elegant depictions to informal moments of gesture and interaction from everyday life, captured through the lens with a vision at once tender, vulgar and beautiful.
The Chelsea Reach' includes photographs from Tom Wood'sLooking for Love' series, taken in his local disco pub between 1984 and 1987. By the time Wood started working in the club he either knew or recognised by sight many of its clientele - some of the faces belonged to young people he had photographed on the streets years before. Known as `Photie Man' by the locals, Wood's observations possess a raw closeness without being voyeuristic.
Tom Wood has the uncanny ability to combine an eye for complexity and structure with an intense sense of humanity. In the `Looking for Love' series, Wood creates an unvarying balance between drawing our attention to human presence but also deflecting it by the richness of composition. Each of the photographs is printed as it was originally framed by Wood's camera, without cropping or editing. Woods' photographs dissociate themselves from conceptual photojournalism and British social documentary photography through these instinctive formalist compositions, disclosing his training as a painter. In these slashes of colour and "jagged cuts of modernist montage (…) each image appears to contain several times as much space and information as its modest compass would seem to allow".
Wood introduces a kind of physical continuum between his subjects and our experience of looking. He is interested in how the photograph mediates in this relationship, how the tension between the abstracted image and the implied physical tendency is resolved. As viewers we find ourselves in the sweaty embrace of the alcohol-fuelled night out. The fluorescent lipstick, poodle perms and pitted skin create the texture of another era but the sense of desire is as present as ever. Lust, ecstasy, disillusion, loneliness and frustration are emotions that override the individual young men and women in the pictures when translated through the subtlety and vigilance of Wood's framings. "I think of myself as a receiver of sensations. Sensations are intangible, I try to organise them through the act of photography".
Tom Wood was born in Ireland and now lives and works in North Wales. Recent solo shows include The Museum of Photography, Copenhagen, Denmark; Foam Fotomuseum, Amsterdam; Musee de l'Elysse, Lucanne. His work can also be found in the public collections of MoMA, New York; The International Centre for Photography, New York; and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
The Chelsea Reach