(james benedict brown) on the road

Mind spillage: the photographs of Damon Fairclough

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 1 February, 2008

Finished yesterday’s day of tutorials in the studio discretely drinking something that might have looked like red wine. A fine way to wind down after a busy day discussing the progress of our research and design projects. Drinking something that might have looked like red wine with me was OB, another student in my studio. She’d be hunting down photographs of Broomhall, a part of Sheffield that has seen a great deal of change in the built environment over the last few years. In her search, she had discovered the brilliant monochrome photographs of Damon Fairclough.

Fairclough has published some of his photographs and writings online at noiseheatpower.com, and is gradually uploading photographs to Flickr at flickr.com/photos/noiseheatpower. There are more than a hundred online now, dating from the second half of the nineteen-eighties, capturing Sheffield before some of its more recent transformations and ‘regenerations’.

Unusually for me, it wasn’t the photographs of architectural subjects that caught my eye, but those of people that seemed to have been shot discretely around the city. A number were taken on a lazy Sunday afternoon at The Leadmill, Sheffield’s infamous Sheffield music venue. Back then, some twenty years ago, the venue was home to a rare Sunday daytime event – lunch and live jazz. Fairclough explains:

No shops, no banks, no comings or goings; it was Sheffield on a Sunday. If you wanted to stretch your legs and head outside, you were meant to go to Endcliffe Park or Fox House, Ladybower or Bakewell. It wasn’t the city’s custom to head into town, so a 1986 Sunday lunchtime trip to the Leadmill still felt illicit – even though you were up to nothing naughtier than flipping through the colour section with a pint of Marston’s Pedigree.

One time, in 1986, I took a camera. And deep in the shadows of the pictures that follow, you can just about sense the subversion of a Leadmill Sunday; jazz solos, brown rice, noticeboards and flyers; the smuggery of those who got a seat, the awkwardness of those left to stand.

I was still in short trousers when these photographs were taken, but they remain quite incredible photographs, not just for the now semi-historical value of the images, but also for the remarkable compositions. In any exhibition of photographic work, there’s usually one image to which I will come back to again and again. In Fairclough’s online gallery, my favourite has to be this one, seemingly taken with a surreptitious eye, as the Sunday crowd heads the the bar for a pint of bitter.

Many thanks to Damon Fairclough for letting me publish his photographs here.

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