Tom Wood has taken photographs almost every day for the last 40 years. The resulting, remarkable bodies of work formed the basis of this retrospective exhibition, his first in the UK.
Wood began taking photographs with serious intent in 1973 when he embarked on a degree in Fine Art Painting at Leicester Polytechnic. His instinct for what made a good photograph was immediate, and these rarely seen early photographs are a testament to his eye for strong composition. Direct and more formal than his later works, they invite us to share the subjects’ thoughts and emotions.
Looking for Love
Between 1982 and 1985, Wood photographed in the now-demolished Chelsea Reach nightclub in New Brighton. Photographing in the dark on busy nights, Wood evokes the noise and heat of the club through the bawdy, drunken and unselfconscious interactions of the customers. These extraordinary photographs were only possible because Wood was accepted as a regular who was known to many of the clientele.
These works form a portrait of Liverpool and its people taken from the various bus routes that criss-cross the city. Wood spent 20 years travelling the buses during off-peak hours. In this time he shot 3,000 rolls of film, painstakingly refining his view of the city. The work has been published in two books: All Zones Off Peak (1998) and Bus Odyssey (2001). Described as ‘an epic of the everyday’, the photographs are dramatic and powerful documents of a city in motion.
Men and Women
Men and Women is Wood’s most recent arrangement of his works. Searching through his vast archive, Wood organised his photographs under the headings ‘Men’ and ‘Women’. What began to emerge was a subtle new reading of his work that dealt with gender alongside his other preoccupations with character and place. Displayed together without chronology, the fluid arrangement highlights the intentional visual play between the images, as well as Wood’s prolonged involvement with his subject matter. Men and Women was first shown at The Photographers’ Gallery, London, in 2012.
Tom Wood biography
Tom Wood was born in 1951 in County Mayo in the west of Ireland. He lived and worked in Merseyside between 1978 and 2003, before moving to his current home in North Wales. Wood has published numerous books, including Looking for Love (1989), All Zones Off Peak (1998), Photie Man (2005) and Men / Women (2013). He has had solo and group exhibitions worldwide and his work is represented in the collections of major international museums.
Cameras, film and printing
Throughout his career, Tom Wood has experimented with a variety of cameras, film types and printing papers. This has been at the heart of his practice, allowing for different interpretations of his subject matter and revealing new detail and depth in the finished photographs.
Partly due to cost, from time to time he has used old cine film and out of date film stock for his pictures. This lends a grainy quality to the film, most evident in Bus Journeys. However, his use of medium formats lends fine detail to the negative, allowing much more visual information to be revealed through the printing process.
Wood has also tirelessly experimented with printing papers to create the exact colour balances and textures he requires. For him, analogue rather than digital printing, and making his own prints in the darkroom, are important. He sees photographing, printing, selection and editing as inseparable parts of the process of photography.