Drifting by the Leeds & Liverpool
I walked the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, observing the burden of deindustrialisation, the areas of regeneration/gentrification, and the water’s tranquil flow over 127 miles. I saw the traces of humanity that mark possession, use and abuse. A ruined mill’s struggle for redevelopment, a make-shift garden house at the water’s edge, detritus dissonantly framed in shining water. Nature’s shrubby undergrowth filling the gaps of humankind’s neglect signposted by graffiti. Trees growing through the ruins of early capitalism where horse-drawn boats were once loaded.
This is not a eulogy to lost industry but an experience of anxiety weighing on a place with only pockets of regeneration (Aditya Chakrabortty, 2011). After decades, ‘levelling up’ is the latest stuttering initiative aimed at fixing the UK as one of the most geographically unequal countries in the world (Bourquin et al., 2020). The canal’s route shows inequality within the regions it flows through.
My work celebrates the diversity of meanings and experience found in the everyday condition, along the waterway’s journey through marginal and affluent space. A strength of photography is that despite photographs being heavily mediated, through their indexicality they offer the experience of looking intensely at the subjects represented. Something often missed when walking distracted through the landscape. The project shares a psychogeographic drift, an experience of reality that is not glossed over with images of the bucolic, white washing the landscape in readiness for leisure and tourism. There are no people in my images, only their traces. These marks are joined to the living and the long-gone through an actor-voiced narrative, sound recordings and samples from oral histories.
My motivation for making the work evolved as I explored. When I found the canal to be a back-route, mostly empty of people (even more so once the Covid-19 pandemic took hold), the work became the portrait of humanity through its traces; a cultural landscape of past activity. These remains of the everyday condition are often rendered invisible in socially shared and publicity images. I would like the photographs and film to convey a sense of poignant calm and encourage viewers to take a closer look at things that often go unnoticed. To experience the fractures as well as the beauty. To discover their own stories in the run-of-the-mill.
In the Media
The project has featured on BBC Radio, in The Yorkshire Post, and local newspapers. It was a finalist in the prestigious Association of Photographers' 2021 Student Awards and the Jump Cuts Film Festival.
Andrew is looking for stories shared by the community along the canal to shape and be included in a future exhibition. If you think you can help and would like to know more, please follow this link where you'll also see some of the stories shared so far: www.fitzgibbonphotography.com/share-canal-stories. Alternatively, you can make contact through the social media and email links above.