This week on Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up – Peter Mitchell’s Early Sunday Morning, and the 2019 Nikon-Walkley Press Photography Exhibition opens at Focal Point Gallery.
Early Sunday Morning – Peter Mitchell
My readers know that I love historical documentary photography, so it is not surprising that Peter Mitchell’s book Early Sunday Morning is one of my new favourites. The book comprises around 100 photographs of the West Yorkshire city of Leeds in northern England, the majority of which haven’t been published before. Most were taken in the early 1970s when Mitchell was working as a delivery truck driver. The colour images capture largely empty streets, giving the book a melancholy that traverses the liminal space created in these solitary pictures of corner shops, factories, pubs and dwellings. Occasionally people are pictured, humans as features of the landscape, the city’s residents largely sequestered in the early hours.
Many of the structures feature political graffiti, others are boarded up or in disrepair, suggesting life in this part of England was hard. In some, debris of the past is scattered across vacant lots. In others, stories of the past are lodged in cracked pavement, broken roof tiles, peeling paint and decaying facades, Leeds’ industrial legacy etched into its urban vistas. On these streets, weavers, tinsmiths, organ builders, papermakers, timber mills, and brewers once plied their trades. By the 1980s many of these businesses were defunct, the only evidence of their existence found in faded signs and edifices in various states of dilapidation. Each image is a piece of the Leeds puzzle that coalesce to create a picture of the social fabric that once held this city together.
Published by RRB Photobooks, this 180-page hardcover book is exquisitely made. The textual quality of the thick paper and the respectful treatment of the images adds to the sensory experience of what is at once a documentary and allegorical stroll through Leeds. The framing of each image centres the picture on the page, the white space around it drawing the viewer in. There are no images split by the spine of the book, thankfully. On occasion there are photos on facing pages, which enhances the book’s narrative beats encouraging the viewer to pause, reflect and consider the pairing of the pictures. I love the contemplative nature of the images and the thoughtful composition. The moments of irony aren’t lost either.
Thank you, Peter Mitchell, for carrying your camera with you on your rounds. These singular images conjoin to create a rich social narrative that is at times confronting, but at the same time softened within the quiescence of early Sunday morning.
2019 Nikon-Walkley Press Photography
Postponed twice due to Covid-19, the 2019 Nikon-Walkley Press Photography Exhibition opens at Focal Point Gallery in Geelong today, Friday 6 November and will be on until 24 December. Gallery owner, Craig Watson has battled to keep Focal Point open. If you are in Geelong, or free to travel, this is an exhibition worth seeing.