Like You’ve Never Been Away

© 2009 Peter Marshall
Paul Trevor looking worried at the opening of a small show of his work in
the Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green, London in 2009 – more here

One book that I can definitely recommend and that won’t break the bank is Paul Trevor‘s ‘like you’ve never been away‘, published by The Bluecoat Press in Liverpool and accompanying his exhibition of the same name at the Walker Art Gallery from 13 May to 25 September 2011.

Back in March Paul Trevor sent me a link to this BBC Merseyside feature, and somehow I simply forgot to write about it. It’s a good film that is worth watching, with Paul talking (and walking,) meeting some of those he photographed in 1975 and showing them his pictures, and he also talks about the “great loss to society” that we can no longer photograph children on the streets in the way he could then.

I was reminded about it again by a review of the book on the Online Photographer blog,  which also prompted me to buy the book. You can read a little bit more about it and see a couple of pictures of the double page spreads there.

Being a lazy (and fairly poor) Londoner I haven’t made the trip to Liverpool for this or any the other events which are a part of Liverpool’s first ever international photography festival, Look11, which is nearing its end, which means I’ve missed quite a few shows and events I would have liked to have seen. Of course most things come to London some time, but perhaps this is unlikely for Trevor’s Liverpool show, though there is still plenty of time to go and see that.

There are around a dozen of his pictures from Liverpool in the 1982 Open University publication ‘Survival Programmes‘, a record of what is I think the last major documentary project in the UK, carried out by the ‘Exit Photography Group’, Nicholas Battye, Chris Steele-Perkins and Paul Trevor in the mid-70s, and most at least of them are in this new publication, with considerably better reproduction. They include what is one of his best-known images, Mozart Street in Toxteth transformed into a beach on a Sunday afternoon, kids playing in bathing trunks as a woman gleefully aims a hose at a kid been held aloft by a man in the doorway of these terrace houses opening directly onto the now wet pavement. Paul spent 6 months living in a flat in tower block in the area and getting to know and photograph the people there.

Survival Programmes‘ has long been out of print, but Trevor kept some boxes when it was withdrawn from sale and I bought a copy from him a few years ago, at rather less than you might expect were it published now. For him it is simply a way to give people who take an interest in his work the opportunity to have the book, although he would have preferred some of the other books he proposed to publishers to have been published. His approach is totally different from some photographers today who deliberately create shortages with limited editions to enable them to sell off copies later at high collector’s prices.

Trevor is I think an example of a photographer who was too good for Magnum, too focussed on what he wanted to achieve, and it is good to see his work getting a little attention now, though a proper showing of his work on London is long overdue (as I’ve often told certain museum and gallery curators.)

You can, as the Online Photographer instructs, with some slight difficulty buy ‘like you’ve never been away‘ on Amazon, as although it says ‘temporarily out of stock’, the ‘3 new‘ link takes you to a set of listings that includes the publisher, who charges a reasonable £2.80 for delivery bringing the total to £12.79 (as well as to another dealer already charging twice the price.) My copy arrived around 36 hours after I made the order. You could possibly save the postage by ordering from Amazon, who are currently out of stock, but I don’t know how long that might take.

The images are well reproduced – much better than in ‘Survival Programmes’ and there are many great pictures I’ve not seen before. My only gripe is that all the landscape format images are printed on a double spread across the gutter, a design decision I’ve seldom found acceptable in photographic books, and which probably means your copy will soon fall to pieces as keep viewing the images, although the book does seem well-made.  It is a decision that contributes to the low price while still allowing the landscape images to be roughly the same size as a 10×8″ print, but I still don’t like it.

As the quote on the back cover by Annie Lord, of National Museums Liverpool says:

“This is an extremely warm and moving book about childhood, life and Liverpool in the 1970s.”

Grab a copy while you can.

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