Saturday Town Where Everyday is Saturday and ART IS REAL
Updated: Feb 25
It is the end of February, the light is returning, the crocuses are out, the daffodils are showing their yellow petals. I am in my own early Spring, in the beginnings of the new Saturday projects. Things are becoming visible; the development work of a quiet January going from thoughts, ideas, imagination, to meetings, to the collaborative work with all of the creative people and partners involved.
The work is evolving as it moves into a new series, embracing new ways of working and locations and further into collaboration. So much is still unknown and that is both an exciting and also a scary place to be.
Leeds is the anchor of the work in Spring/Summer 2023 as we celebrate 10 years of this work. Saturday Town started in Leeds as Saturday Girl in 2013. I am so happy to be back in the city to explore all of wild identities of now and to mark a decade of documenting visibility with photography.
Saturday Town becomes REAL this season in the Trinity Leeds shopping centre. We have a space hosted by Leeds 2023 where Saturday Town designer Jenn Smith and I are now working. I am interested in how the continuity of being in the same space for months on end will affect the project and enable it to grow and develop in a different way from previously.
There is a freedom and energy in the constant movement, upheaval and change that can be read through the identities I’ve photographed in the past year. My portrait studio, set up as temporary, mirrored this, joined in with the movement. Often the locations were repurposed, (from Burnley to Blackpool, Wigan to Redcar, throughout the Northern towns) offering an opportunity to question how we use town street spaces. The nature of the project is to say ‘what else might happen in all of these disused shops?’ It prompts a questioning of the authority of buildings, of power that is entrenched in the physical bricks and mortar. In the wake of the changes accelerated by Covid, in how we shop and use public space, the streets and structures of towns and cities are in flux.
Along with personal identity and the language of fashion and personal self expression, Saturday Town is also about the streets and how all of the empty shops can be reimagined.
All of the physical reality around us, all of the scaffolding of society, were once imagined.
Imagination is the starting point to everything.
Acting on thoughts can, will, lead to change.
If you want to move into the physical expression of your ideas, this time of flux, upheaval, is a good time to go for it.
There is a collapse of binaries, of societal norms and structures as we move through so much turbulence. Everywhere young folks are questioning who they are and what they could be. There is opportunity in this.
'In the spaciousness of uncertainty there is room to act. When you recognise uncertainty you recognise that you may be able to influence the outcomes' Rebecca Solnit
People are finding space in the cracks.
I see this change in the visual language that is worn, that is embedded in fashion, in playful identity. This is Saturday Town.
I have been thinking about all of this in relation to Saturday Town Leeds and the physical space we are inhabiting for the next 6 months. I think of it as an alchemical process; my ideas, relationships and photographic work in the studio become real, as physical photographs and space.
There is power in this; To be seen, to see, to say I SEE YOU.
Here you are.
It is photography at its most profound function; I see you and you are REAL.
This is my job.
To see and alchemise this process into a photograph.
The space in Trinity Leeds is a real space in time. My ideas, embedded in the project, move into the material world, becoming physical. There is power in this.
It says ‘Look I can do it. So can you!’
There is so much power at play in the physical structures of our towns and cities. Change begins with understanding this, with questioning power.
I was invited recently to speak about the new Nan Goldin documentary; Laura Poitras’s Oscar-nominated documentary ‘All the Beauty and the Bloodshed’ when it was shown at FACT, Liverpool. The film speaks to so much but is ultimately about collective action taking down power (go see it - it is inspiring and beautiful) In my research I watched Nan in conversation with Gregory Crewdson and they were talking about photography and the digital platforms and how the depth of relationship you can have with photography when at an exhibition with printed photographs doesn't exist in the same way in the digital sphere and Nan says ‘ART IS REAL’., as in, as part of the material world, in relationship with people, space, physicality. I keep writing this - ART IS REAL - in my diary, when taking notes in meetings etc - It is reminding me of the phase I’m in with Saturday Town. Saturday Town is Real as are all of the wild, beautiful people I see everywhere.
And that is what I’m thinking about in early Spring 2023.
Thanks to Leeds Inspired for supporting Saturday Girl and Saturday Town for 10 years now!
Thanks to Leeds 2023 for including me in the amazing programme of culture this year!
Thank You to Arts Council England for believing in me and my work and helping me to realise my ideas.