March 9th, 2010 admin

I recently asked a curator friend who they thought was one of the most important photographers working in Britain over the past twenty years, whose work has not received the recognition it deserves. The curator’s unequivocal response was Tom Wood.

Wood was born in West Ireland in 1951 and now lives in North Wales (where he moved in 2003). Much like Ian Macdonald and Graham Smith (see previous blog post), Wood has chosen to work over the past 25 years almost exclusively in a small geographical area, photographing predominantly in Merseyside and Liverpool. Working primarily on the street and in pubs and clubs, Wood photographed the public face of New Brighton (made famous by Martin Parr in his book The Last Resort), across the river from Liverpool, from the late 1970’s until he moved away in 2003. For much of his time in Merseyside, Wood worked with portraiture “ranging from refined, tonally elegant depictions to informal moments of gesture and interaction from everyday life, captured through the lens with a vision at once tender, vulgar and beautiful.” (from the press release for Wood’s exhibition of The Chelsea Reach).

The Chelsea Reach includes photographs from Wood’s Looking for Love series, taken in his local disco pub between 1984 and 1987. By the time Wood started working in the club he either knew or recognised by sight many of its clientele – some of the faces belonged to young people he had photographed on the streets years before. His observations possess a raw closeness without being voyeuristic. Here are some of his photographs from the project –

Untitled, 1982-86 from The Chelsea Reach © Tom Wood

Untitled, 1982-86 from The Chelsea Reach © Tom Wood

Untitled, 1982-86 from The Chelsea Reach © Tom Wood

Untitled, 1982-86 from The Chelsea Reach © Tom Wood

Untitled, 1982-86 from The Chelsea Reach © Tom Wood

Wood’s recent solo shows include The Museum of Photography, Copenhagen, Denmark; Foam Fotomuseum, Amsterdam; Musee de l’Elysse, Lucanne. His work can also be found in the public collections of MoMA, New York; The International Centre for Photography, New York; and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

There are several publications of his work, most of which are out of print: Bus Odyssey (Hatje Cantz, 2001); People (Wienand Verlag Koln, 1999); All Zones Off Peak (Dewi Lewis Publishing, 1998); Looking for Love (Cornerhouse Publications, 1989); and Photieman (Steidl, 2005).

The publishing blurb for the latter says: “For 25 years Tom Wood lived in New Brighton, just across the river Mersey from Liverpool. He became known locally as ‘photie man’ because everyday he was out on the streets with his camera. Most of the pictures collected together in this book were taken within 5 minutes walk from Wood’s home. The work focuses on the inhabitants of the town and its regular visitors, from Liverpool day-trippers to clubbers who attended the Chelsea Reach nightspot. Wood’s images are a dazzling selection of cocky youths, friends, lovers, fathers, mothers and babies that provide insight into the area, it’s inhabitants and the rites of passage inherent in growing up. Artist and curator Padraig Timoney has collaborated with Wood in the selection and sequencing of photographs to make a significant book-work.”

You can read a review of Photie Man by Ken Grant on here and see spreads from the book on Shane Lavalette’s blog here.


  1. I’m sorry but I only have a 15″ computer screen so can see the photos but not the words. I hope you decried the culture shown in your photos. We English, indeed.

  2. Niall McDiarmid Says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    Tom Wood’s book All Zones Off Peak is an amazing piece of work, however in many ways I prefer Photie Man. I really recommend it – one of my favourite photography books of recent years – wonderful stuff.

  3. Hes my uncle 🙂

  4. Who even knows this stuff about my uncle?

  5. hahah im the man in the lovely silver shirt keeping two young ladys enthrawled with my suave patter hahah memories

  6. tom was my tutor 1989 – this is what I do now

  7. […] pictures in his first book, Looking For Love (1989) were made between 1982 and 1985, and features the infamous Chelsea Reach nightclub. This […]

  8. I was in one of the photo’s in the “Looking for Love-Chelsea Reach” and spoke with Tom about his photography. He inspired me so much, I took up Photography shortly afterwards and after a few years ended up working for the BBC in London as a TV Cameraman, Thanks Tom;-}

  9. Gifted and inspiring

  10. I am 65 and have been photographing since 1962. After leaving the Royal Air Force in December 1975 I have lived in Northampton and documented children and adults mainly around Northampton.
    In the summer of 1990 my children photographs were exhibited by the Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, London. They purchased 17 of my black & whites and recently accepted my gift of 158 b&w’s and installed a special environmental unit specially to store my gift. The Tate Gallery use to commission me to create positive documentary publicity photographs inside their galleries at Milbank between 1995 to 2003.
    I have been creating positive documentary photographs and environmental portraits mainly since 1979. My exhibitions locally are well received but I have no idea how to reach the organisations that Tom Wood has managed to share my positive vision of ordinary humanity in Britain with the outside world. Please can you help. My website is just a fraction of my personal work. Thank you

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