Train your eyes on what is not immediately obvious and the stories start to appear. Shalesmoor has two meandering axes. One in Scotland Street, bookended by the HSBC building on Netherthorpe Road and the old police station at West Bar, which now has Marco Pierre White’s mugshot inkjetted to its flank. It’s one of those […]

Train your eyes on what is not immediately obvious and the stories start to appear.

Shalesmoor has two meandering axes. One in Scotland Street, bookended by the HSBC building on Netherthorpe Road and the old police station at West Bar, which now has Marco Pierre White’s mugshot inkjetted to its flank. It’s one of those remarkable streets where you can get anything you might need: a posh meal, printing, paintballing, petrol, a prostitute. If the Industrial Revolution had arrived 200 years early it might have started here. There used to be a gallows and a slaughterhouse.

The other axis starts up Furnace Hill off Gibraltar Street, opposite Shakespeares, zig zags through Smithfield and Cross Smithfield and Allen Street, then climbs steeply up Edward Street and pops out into Broomhill opposite St George’s Church. It’s full of chance encounters between the close-up – washing drying on balconies in Edward Street flats – and the distant – sudden glimpses of far away hills between the buildings, the Arts Tower peering studiously over a rooftop and checking that all is well.

So CADS, the wonderfully impromptu art space in a former works on Smithfield, all brick, steel roof trusses and wriggly tin roof, was the perfect setting for Moments in Monochrome, an exhibition of travel photographs by 18 to 24 year olds curated by Nicky Archer. “The brief was to capture a moment on a journey,” explained Nicky. “The journey might be to the end of your street or to the other side of the world. I wanted to curate something that would show the range of journeys and experiences that young people are making and photographing, and inspire them to do more.”

“The great thing about monochrome photography is that it forces you to look more closely,” Nicky added. She’s right. Despite decades of colour photography, there’s still something deep in our collective psyche that distinguishes a black-and-white image as a photograph, to be studied, from a colour one that we can automatically absorb and instinctively filter through a lifetime of assumptions. It’s also really interesting to see how the photographers have responded to the challenge of capturing a moment. You look at the images and you immediately start asking questions. What happened the previous moment, or the next? What was the photographer doing there? Were they just there by chance, or did they take time out from their regular lives to seek out a particular shot? Why is one lady on the train looking straight at the camera when no-one else has even noticed it? Is the girl on the bus making a journey she makes every day, or is she leaving home? How come you can go anywhere in the world and the graffiti is always in English, and the word ‘fuck’ will always be there somewhere?

The easier technology makes it for you to take pictures and shovel them into the ether, the harder it is to make the time and thought for taking individual, crafted photographs. When there’s an opportunity to contribute to a curated body of work, where your pictures tell part of a story that is fleshed out by other people’s images, and where people will make the effort to look at them really closely, you can see that talented photographers jump at the chance.

“It really means something to have your photos chosen by someone else,” said Amy, one of the contributing photographers. And for me it really meant something to meet the person who’d taken one of my favourite images in the exhibition. A street performer in Paris has somehow got to the top of a lamp post and is playing tricks with a football. Did he climb up first and then have the ball passed to him, or did he manage to control the ball while he climbed up? Is this what he really wants to do? Does he like entertaining people or does he loathe them and long for a normal job? Does he have a stooge who’s picking pockets? Was Amy’s pocket being picked as she squeezed the trigger? “He plays Enrique Iglesias’s ‘Hero’ on repeat,” Amy said. Now the scene is complete for me.

Photo by Thomas Furness

Andrew Wood.