As the sweat, cigarette butts and class A drug debris of men’s fashion week are swept from the nightclub floors across the capital, our attention marches north to Liverpool, where Open Eye Gallery presents North: Identity, Photography, Fashion.
In North, curators Adam Murray and Lou Stoppard seek to “bring together collective visions of the North, unpicking themes that appear regularly in design and media”. And, with set design by fashion week mainstay Tony Hornecker and a list of featured artists which reads like a whistlestop tour of British creativity – Alasdair McLellan, Glen Luchford, Corinne Day, David Sims, Jamie Hawkesworth, Jason Evans, Alice Hawkins, Mark Leckey, Jeremy Deller, Raf Simons, Paul Smith, Virgil Abloh, New Power Studio, adidas, Elaine Constantine, Christopher Shannon, Maxwell Sterling, Simon Foxton, Ben Kelly, Stephen Jones, Gareth Pugh, Nick Knight, Peter Saville, John Bulmer, Peter Mitchell, Nik Hartley, Claire Barrow, Humphrey Spender, Thom Murphy, Ewen Spencer, Brett Dee, Humphrey Jennings, Dave Turner, Rob Williams, David Ellison, Scott King, Shirley Baker, Greg Leach, John Davies, John Stoddart, Martin Roberts, Michael Robinson, Michelle Sank, Paul O’Donnell, Stephen McCoy, Tom Wood and John Skelton – it’s probably time to readdress the North/South divide.
We asked the curators Adam Murray and Lou Stoppard to select their favourite shots from the show.
“I adore the work of British photographer Alice Hawkins. There are five works by her in the show – we felt she offered a slightly different perspective. The aspects of Northern culture that are most regularly taken up by the fashion press tend to relate mostly to subculture, music and sport. Therefore, a highly masculine image often dominates. Men are shown as active, often boisterous and bold, while women are frequently shown in domestic settings or in the role of carers. Alice is full of respect for her subjects and often plays with or challenges these stereotypes, celebrating the routines and rituals of British women. Highly influenced by Coronation Street and Bet Lynch, she seeks to shoot women ‘who don’t conform to a normal notion of beauty.’” Lou Stoppard
“This image is particularly close to me as Jamie first produced it when he collaborated with Robert Parkinson and I on a project to document a weekend in Preston Bus Station in 2010. Obviously since then Jamie has quite rightly developed a massive profile as a fashion photographer, yet this remains one of his most iconic images. In the exhibition we have placed it next to an editorial shoot that Another Magazine commissioned Jamie to produce in 2014 that pays homage to the original Bus Station project.” Adam Murray
“An unexpected surprise of working with Open Eye Gallery was gaining access to their fantastic print archive. This is the 40th anniversary year of the gallery and during this time it has been a strong supporter of photography in the North West of England. Lou and I initially chose different work by Stephen McCoy from the archive, but once we had contacted him he showed us this beautiful project shot in Skelmersdale in 1984. Immediately we wanted to feature this work in the exhibition.” Adam Murray
Still from North: Stephen Jones by SHOWstudio, 2016
“This collaboration with Adam actually started as project for SHOWstudio before it developed into an exhibition. We selected to interview key people who hail from the North – Stephen Jones, Christopher Shannon, Simon Foxton, Claire Barrow, Gareth Pugh, Thom Murphy, Gareth Aspden – about the influence place, hometown and upbringing has had on their creative output. We wanted to the films to explore all different areas of the North, from Berwick-upon-Tweed through to Blackburn and Sunderland. This still is from Stephen Jones’ film, which focuses on Liverpool. All the films are on display in the third room of the gallery and set designer Tony Hornecker has created environments around them which play on the events or motifs discussed for viewers to sit in while watching them. The films are also available to watch on SHOWstudio, which is a part of our plan to ensure that a global audience – those who can’t make it to Liverpool – can engage with the concept.” Lou Stoppard
Alasdair McLellan: Boy at the Saint Leger Fair, Doncaster, September 2005
“From the very beginning it was clear Alasdair was going to play a big role in this project. His work is so informed by his time growing up in Yorkshire and consistently revisits these places to shoot his many projects. We are so lucky to not only have three important prints from Alasdair’s career in the exhibition such as this one, but also a new film produced especially for North. Titled Infinity the work features motifs familiar throughout his work and is a touching document of the landscape of youth.” Adam Murray
Raf Simons, A/W 2003
“When we started researching the exhibition we were very interested in looking at how ideas of the North have spread far and wide. I’m personally a huge fan of Raf Simons’ work and am very intrigued by his interest in Northern figures. His S/S 2016 collection, which features in the exhibition, drew on work by Birkenhead-born artist Mark Leckey (who also has a film in the show) and was particularly epic. His interest spans over 20 years. This collection shown here, for A/W 2003 featured Peter Saville’s archive – all those iconic Joy Division and New Order covers. I’m intrigued in why global creatives find inspiration in the North. Raf is Antwerp born – where did his interest start? Why is Chicago-born streetwear guru Virgil Abloh (who also has work in the show) interested? I’m happy to be able to explore that.” Lou Stoppard
Jason Evans: Untitled, Manchester, 1997
“I’ve long been a huge admirer of Jason Evans’ work. Now a photographer, Evans has also worked as a stylist (his collaborations with photographer Brett Dee for i-D magazine when he was working under the moniker Travis are also on show in the exhibition) and a casting director. The series from which this image was taken spans years of documenting people out and about when he was looking for subjects for other photographers – they were shot in Sheffield, Manchester and Newcastle between 1995 and 2001. I love the images so much that I featured 6 pictures from the series in my first ever exhibition, Mad About The Boy, at the Fashion Space Gallery, which considered fashion’s obsession with the teenage male. I think Evans has done a lot to broader fashion’s ideals of beauty and diversify the kind of subjects shown in the context of glossy magazines.” Lou Stoppard
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