Tom Wood

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  • Ferry Folk – Liz Wewiora
Open Eye Gallery and Museum of Liverpool 12/1/18

Ferries of some description have shuffled passengers across the Mersey and back for over 800 years. They are a quietly integral part of Liverpool’s identity; a rare constant in a city characterised by renewal and change. THE PIER HEAD – TOM WOOD is the UK premiere of over 90 photographs taken in the 70s and 80s on the commute to Liverpool. Wood’s ability to capture fleeting moments of intimacy and variety in the everyday commute brings life to the Mersey Ferries and their community.

As a daily commuter on the Mersey Ferries, photographer Tom Wood had a wealth of different stories at his disposal. His fellow passengers were ordinary people going about their daily lives: workers in worn-out suits, mothers juggling children and moody teenagers smoking. Their busy, chaotic lives converge on the ferry like a perfect microcosm of Liverpool. Wood is interested in this moment, but his subjects are on pause, waiting to resume their day. His photography thus captures the essence of commuting, and he invites the audience to join him as an observer of everyday life.

Many of his subjects appear to be caught unaware, engrossed in conversation or smoking a cigarette. Others stare directly at the camera, offering Wood a glimpse of their personalities. Perhaps my favourite photographs are those of teenagers; he manages to capture their unapologetic attitude, that spunk and style of Liverpool’s youth. They wear baggy jumpsuits, vintage sportswear and leather tops; their faces suggest boredom and amusement all at once.

“Wood’s photography captures the essence of commuting, and he invites the audience to join him as an observer of everyday life”

Running parallel to Tom Wood’s exhibition is FERRY FOLK by LIZ WEWIORA, which explores the relevance of the Mersey Ferries today. As the demand for travelling by boat has fallen, the ferries have become a tourist attraction as well as a commuter service. Wewiora’s work is collaborative, involving photographs and stories from those who still work for and use the ferries on a regular basis. Wood’s exhibition feels nostalgic, but Ferry Folk is hopeful that a new community now exists.

Wewiora has placed an interactive viewfinder in the Museum of Liverpool by the floor-length windows. As I flick through photos taken on board the ferries, I am aware of the Mersey stretching out in front and of the Pier Head itself. Her interactive project is simple but it joins Wood’s photography to tell a larger story: one that pays homage to Liverpool, its community and the river.

The Pier Head – Tom Wood Image 2

Wood’s links to Liverpool make this a particularly relevant exhibition. His work feels spontaneous, and it is no surprise to discover that he started this project almost by accident. These photographs have been chosen from over one thousand rolls of film, and I leave the exhibition wondering what other stories he has hidden away.

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