artist / participant
Tom Wood. Britain in the 80s
Curator: Olga Sviblova
As part of the 10th Moscow International Biennale of Fashion and Style in Photography 2017, MAMM presents ‘Britain in the 80s’, an exhibition by the outstanding Irish photographer Tom Wood.
Images by Tom Wood are held in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), the International Centre of Photography (New York), the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Art Institute of Chicago and the National Museum of Photography (Copenhagen).
Wood’s work has often been shown in exhibitions at the New York Institute of Photography, the Photographers’ Gallery (London), the Photography Museum (Amsterdam), etc. In 2013 the National Museum and Media Museum in Bradford successfully hosted a large retrospective exhibition by the photographer.
Tom Wood is the author of many photography books, the most famous being ‘In Search of Love’ (1989), depicting patrons of the Chelsea Reach nightclub in Merseyside, and ‘All Zones Off Peak’, photos Wood took on Liverpool bus routes from 1978 to 1996.
For forty years Tom Wood has been photographing the inhabitants of industrial British cities, with his own exquisite sense of humour and great sympathy for his subjects. Wood’s images include young people and pensioners, couples and lovers, bus passengers and pedestrians, disco regulars, participants in sports events and children’s parties, deserted city streets in pouring rain, and much more.
‘I took pictures of people who let me take pictures of them... I just went out every day and took pictures of all kinds of things, never completing anything, lots of projects that I didn’t want to finish or put on public display at the time,’ admits Tom Wood.
Tom Wood has been called a photojournalist, but he himself rejects the definition: ‘When the assignment is more like reportage or documentary it can be defined as journalism, but when it’s more conceptual and artistic, that’s something else entirely. If these two approaches come together, then it gets interesting... I’m not trying to document anything, I’m asking questions.’ In the ‘Britain in the 80s’ project Tom Wood actually poses what are very simple yet deeply existential questions about the meaning of our existence and how eternal or fleeting things are intertwined in life. Far from London, Wood has succeeded in feeling the wind of time that penetrates British reality in a more profound and subtle way than other British or Irish photographers.
Dostoevsky wrote that we all come out from Gogol’s overcoat. In seemingly random images ranging from long shots to clearly enlarged frames Tom Wood tells the stories of his subjects, of ordinary people whose lives are changing in a completely different rhythm to the frenetic and visually more articulated changes confronting the inhabitants of capital cities. Thanks to Tom Wood’s ability to see people ‘behind the scenes’ we can recognise our own realities of that period from ‘Britain in the 80s’. Tom Wood, who rarely leaves his present hometown in north Wales and avoids any kind of definition, whether documentary or artistic, has apparently become the most existential photographer of the 20th century.