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In 1975 Paul Trevor came to Liverpool to document inner city deprivation for the Survival Programmes project. His remarkable photographs told a different story however. Their backdrop may be the dereliction of post-war Liverpool. But these images went beyond this bleak cityscape and got close to his real subject: families and children.
This exhibition of Paul's direct and honest street photography showed life as it was lived in a community defiant in the face of poverty, unemployment and the state of their surroundings. He depicted a place where the streets and wastelands became playgrounds, the family was a constant, and where children seem fun-loving and free.
Paul returned to the same Liverpool communities in the summer of 2010. After a lively reunion with local residents, one said: "Paul, it's like you’ve never been away!"
This exhibition was part of the Look11 international photography festival.
Review for Redeye by Stephen Clarke:
Ian Boland, a child in 1970s Liverpool when photographed by Paul Trevor, is credited in this exhibition as its instigator. As an adult Boland wrote to Trevor in 2008 and, according to the Walker Gallery wall text, rekindled a 30 year-old project resulting in Trevor’s attempts to trace the children from his pictures and to re-photograph them as adults. Trevor’s photographs were made as part of a survey of Britain’s inner cities by the Exit Photography Group, and published in book form as ‘Survival Programmes: In Britain’s Inner Cities’ (Open University Press, 1982). Living in Everton for six months Trevor had concentrated his camera upon children and families in the Everton and Toxteth districts of Liverpool. This project is an important text within British documentary photography and this exhibition is a timely revisit to the issues that the Exit Photography Group explored.
The visitor to ‘Like you’ve never been away’ is not shown new work, but is instead presented with 57 black and white digital prints from the negatives that Trevor made in 1975. Many of the photographs that Trevor made in the mid 1970s were not printed and consequently there are no archival prints to display. These images have lay dormant in Trevor’s negative files and on his contact sheets. Now used as a starting point for Trevor’s present investigation, their function is to help to find the ‘missing’ subjects that Trevor is attempting to trace. At the centre of the exhibition a recording of the BBC programme ‘Inside Out North West? shows Trevor at work on tracking down his lost children and his efforts to update the project.
Trevor is an advocate of street photography saying that it shows ‘life as it is lived’. The lives of his subjects had been marred by a combination of unemployment, poverty, and the poor state of their surroundings. At the heart of this social crisis were children, and this is why Trevor focused his attention upon them. He laments that the current paranoia about the vulnerability of children has meant that they are not being photographed in the way that he pictured them in the mid 1970s, and this leads him to the opinion that we are losing the representation of a whole generation of children. It is poignant to consider this notion of a lost generation as many of the deprived children of his photographs, although represented pictorially, would become a lost generation as they grew up to face the worst of economic instability of Margaret Thatcher’s 1980s.
Since the opening of this exhibition there have been riots in a number of major cities in England, including Liverpool. Many of the rioters appear to have been children; we know this because they were captured by CCTV and recorded in media reports. The issue here becomes not the lack of images of children but who produces the images and why. Trevor’s intention to re-photograph the people in his 1970s photographs injects a critical perspective into the lives of those depicted, but also leads the viewer to reflect upon the plight of the current lost generation of British youngsters and their future in the face of economic instability and social crisis at the beginning of the 21st century.