Review: Paul Trevor – From His Archives

Last Wednesday saw a Redeye Netowrk/Open Eye talk by Paul Trevor at Novas CUC in Liverpool. I’d set the ball rolling on this one, as I had been in contact with Paul and thought that, with his exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery coming up, it would be an ideal time to share some of his less published work and hear his thoughts on photography.

Novas CUC is a strange venue. The talk was held there at the last minute, as Open Eye (the usual venue) is moving to Mann Island, and their old space was being filled with their exhibition of work from their archives, as part of the Look11 photography festival. Novas CUC is massive, and has some great spaces, but I’ve never taken to the location being 10-15 minutes out from town, and in the middle of an area of derelict factory spaces and garages. No handy transport links further diminish the incentives to head down there, so I rarely go unless the event is of particular interest.

Paul Trevor has been documenting British life since the 1970s, and has worked in film until about 6-7 years ago. He noted that the digital revolution has resulted in much of his work being unavailable to most photography fans. His archive is largely undigitized, and the process of digitizing it will be a long one. I couldn’t help thinking then of Vivian Maier, and wondered how many great photographers who established themselves during the film years could be overlooked by the development of digital cameras and the move to sharing work digitally. Perhaps we will be “discovering” many more Maiers in later years in part because of this.

Trevor showed a selection of work that he had photographed from the original contact sheets using a digital camera and a macro lens. This included images from Like You’ve Never Been Away (work made in Everton in 1975 and currently showing at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool), Eastenders (a long term project based around Brick Lane), and Sueños De Fuego, a colour project made in Spain around 2003-2004.

A street photographer, Trevor said, “For me, really, the street is not literally the street. The street is my studio. The possibilities are endless.” He prefers not to set up anything in his images for this reason, favouring the chances offered by the chaos of the street. He resisted shooting in colour for a long time, only switching to it in 2001, and working exclusively in it since. His reasons for this are partly practical – with more experience of working in black and white, he felt no need to switch to colour earlier and change how he composes. “Colour is a very different tool to black and white” and he felt no pressure to change.

Trevor shares with Tom Wood an interest in how images can create a narrative when juxtaposed. Presenting portraits from his Eastenders project, all the images had been paired. Wood has sequenced in a similar manner, although with Wood the juxtapositions tend to feel more lateral and poetic. Trevor notes that he has always been much more interested in narrative than in single images. By sequencing images into pairings, a sense of narrative can be created than can link two images, seemingly disparate in content, by visual clues such as similar composition. A relationship is created and, for Trevor, “everything is about relationships.”

To Be Continued Later…

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