Review - Documentary Photography by Stewart Wall, 22 Jun 2020

A review by Janine Scola - A Talk by Stewart Wall MA ARPS on his documentary photography, via Zoom, 22 June 2020
A Talk on Documentary Photography by professional photographer Stewart Wall MA ARPS

As lockdown continues so does our Club ‘virtual’ meetings and this week we were delighted to welcome Stewart Wall and his talk covering his journey in photography and highlighting three of his socio-documentary projects.

Stewart gave us a short resume of how his career started and his keen interest in portraying, through photography, his story of three particular projects – namely, The Stonemason, Park Hill in Sheffield and From the Kasbah to Central Hall – all documenting his exploration of the lifespan of an individual, then two different and diverse cities and how they have changed, and continue to change over time.

Through ‘The Stonemason’, Stewart portrayed the life of Colin Wood - who will be the last member of the Wood family who has carried on the tradition of stonemasonry since 1886. His excellent images took us back in time to a bygone era of the family home, the same small workplace and the true art involved. Through Stewart’s project, this promoted a well- received exhibition and the enlightenment of local school children.

From here, Stewart transported us to Park Hill in Sheffield, where back in the early 1950’s the then inspirational high-rise flat development was designed, and finally completed in 1961. His photos documented the families who lived in this new environment, the individual style of the homes and now, in the new era of the 21stcentury, as English Heritage, have taken on the massive task of refurbishing and regenerating this developent. Where once families were of a similar background, now there will be a mix of social and purchase availability, as well as business opportunities and with that, a different mix of society. Stewart will continue to return to the area to document these changes – maybe the next talk!

Moving on, his journey took us to the fish docks of Grimsby, and an area referred to as the ‘Kasbah’ – and little known by the locals! His images showed us the old shop fronts, the once magnificent building of the Grimsby Ice Company and which English Heritage will be stepping in again to refurbish and regenerate in this area. Streets of now derelict Victorian homes, of which each could tell their story of life in those times and the hard work of those who worked in the docks. Onward to Central Hall, where once a community enjoyed concerts and the arts – its style almost Art Deco and now the focus of other groups from railway enthusiasts to choirs.

In Stewart’s words, he no longer sees photography as photography, but really a ‘pen’ to tell the story – his images certainly did that, be they in black and white, his favoured style, or colour, which he feels is important for socially documenting some of his projects – whatever, we were delighted to have the opportunity to see such quality images, each was thought provoking and brought back memories of those long ago days!

So, get out there and document your homes and area, in fifty years’ time it will be a social record for the next generation of how we lived.

~ Janine Scola