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Photie Man: First UK exhibition of Tom Wood’s incredible photography coming to Walker Art Gallery 

1 year ago

By The Guide Liverpool

Photie Man: First UK exhibition of Tom Wood’s incredible photography coming to Walker Art Gallery 

Photie Man: 50 Years of Tom Wood opens on 20 May 2023 and will be the first major retrospective of the Irish artist’s work in the UK. 

Matchdays at Anfield and Goodison Park, trips to “Greatie” Homer Street Market and bus journeys through the streets of Liverpool all feature as part of the new exhibition Photie Man: 50 Years of Tom Wood, celebrating over half a century of work from the acclaimed Irish-born artist. 

Known across Merseyside as “Photie Man”, Wood’s photographs evoke the spirit of Merseyside life from the 1970s to the present day. Together, they provide an insight into everyday life and culture in Liverpool – presenting people and places not usually represented in art, and creating an intimate, multi-layered portrait of the city and its inhabitants.  

Photie Man: Tom Wood
Girls on Ferry – Photie Man: Tom Wood

Taking in over half a century’s work, the exhibition will move from vintage photographs that Wood started collecting whilst still at school, alongside never-before-seen photographs from a wide range of formats. Additionally, some of the artist’s experimental film work will be included, from the 1980s to the present day.   

A series of Wood’s most iconic photographs from the 80s and 90s will feature, including those from ‘Looking for Love’ (1989) – a portrait of New Brighton’s Chelsea Reach nightclub – to the well-known bus photographs of ‘All Zones Off Peak’ (1998). These will appear alongside rarely shown works from the Cammell Laird shipyard and around Liverpool’s two celebrated football grounds. The exhibition will also include Wood’s ‘Irish Work’, made since the 1970s, together with recent landscape photography made around his current home in North Wales.   

Today, photography is an established fine art form, but this wasn’t always the case – particularly during the first half of Wood’s career. Tom Wood, who trained in painting in the early 1970s, first explored photography through experimental film and ‘found’ postcards. His self-taught approach means he photographs in an open manner, shooting quickly yet precisely. 

Lads at railings, 1987. (c) T Photie Man
Lads at railings, 1987. (c) T

Wood’s work is not organised as a series of projects, each with a start and end date. Instead, he works daily on an unfolding, diary-like recording of his observations and encounters. He spends many years returning to particular places, to refine and distil the essence of the locations and the people in his photographs. 

Tom Wood said: “I have had major retrospectives around the world – in China, France, London – but never in Liverpool, where I photographed every day for 25 years!  

“I didn’t want a show for myself or my career, but rather to give the work back to the city where it belongs. I can’t think of a better venue for these photographs than the Walker Art Gallery. Many a time I would visit – after the markets, after the football – to walk around the galleries and unwind. The energy of Liverpool and its people has informed all this work – it was everywhere I went, everywhere I looked. All I was doing was tapping into that. It has been a real labour of love.” 

Photie Man
Grimace girl, 1986. (c) Tom Wood Archive

Charlotte Keenan, Head of Walker Art Gallery, said: “Through his photography in Liverpool and Merseyside, Tom Wood offers visitors from the local area the opportunity to revisit many recognisable people and places from our history. I’m thrilled to be hosting this exhibition at the Walker, which will be a celebration of Tom Wood’s career – offering followers and newcomers alike the opportunity to take a more in-depth look at his work.” 

Tickets for Photie Man: 50 Years of Tom Wood are on sale now. Adult tickets cost £9, with concessions available – members of National Museums Liverpool can visit for free. On the first Sunday of every month, Liverpool City Region residents can visit the exhibition at the discounted rate of £4.50 for adults and concessions. 

For further details and to book tickets, visit: liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/tomwood 

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