Heart and soul of the city?

To celebrate the opening of the ‘Your Retail Soulmate’ exhibition at Trinity Church on Boar Lane, Leeds we asked some of the exhibitors about the exhibition. So – over to them…

© Paul Dishman

For me the title ” Your Retail Soulmate” was very much a typical big business strapline (it is drawn from the Trinity Shopping Development promotional blurb). I wanted to show the other side to retail in the city – the smaller pop-up businesses, buskers, stall holders and sellers who are just as much a part of the city of Leeds as big business.

It made me more aware of when it is busy and when it is not as I tried to get the images I needed. Also made me engage more with some of the characters in the city who are having just as hard a time as big business just now. Their absence from the street due to going bust will have as much effect as an empty shop here and there. Some of them have real stories behind how they have ended up working on the streets of Leeds and have travelled huge distances to get there. Some are having a real struggle at the moment and others are bringing new sounds and street food to the city.
I could have gone more into the persona of the characters in my images and have more information than I have shared. I just wanted to use what I knew they were comfortable with but would be interested in going deeper on a future project perhaps.

Paul Dishman

© Claire Selman

When considering the relationship between Holy Trinity church and its surroundings in Leeds, I came to the conclusion that retail could be considered a contemporary religion. Of course there are numerous references to religion in the advertising of retail, however my work for this exhibition is concerned with the way in which the behaviour of shoppers can convey this worship. It seemed to me the lustful gaze into a shop window was the point at which this worship revealed itself.

The transformation of a window of Trinity church into a scene more familiar in a shopping centre, complete with inquisitive shoppers and seductive offers, creates a fictional scenario in which the church becomes the shop. This is intended to act as both an observation and comment on the role of religion and retail in contemporary life.

Claire Selman

My images are selected from a wider project which I have been shooting since 2009 and as recently as last month titled Sister in the Sticks. This project explores what it means to grow up in an isolated rural environment through a cathartic investigation into my teenage half-sisters life. After never living with my sister Danniella, the project began as a process through which to reconcile our relationship. We are very close now and shooting has developed into a documentary of her experience of living in such a rural location. I am interested in the challenges that face the contemporary British countryside, and the challenges that face the teenagers who live within it. I am now developing a wider survey of teenagers living in the North Pennines titled The Rugged Places, with the support of the IdeasTap Innovators Fund, Killhope Lead Mining Centre and Dale Force.

© Anne-Marie Atkinson

For Your Retail Soulmate, the selected images contrast Danniella’s life at home with the experience she has when visiting me in Leeds during school (now college) holidays. It was a while before she was allowed to make the trip down herself, but she has since visited me for up to a week on 3 or 4 occasions. At home, she has no access to clothes shops, cafes, night spots. The last bus from the nearest (still very small and run-down) town is at 7:30pm, and the journey costs best part of a tenner and takes best part of an hour. In these respects, her life is very different to the teenagers in Leeds. These images address access and aspirations of ‘retail’, which I believe can represent transitional zones to young people.

Soul is linked to people’s inner beliefs – their very person – how do you feel you’ve represented this?

‘Soul’ and ‘soulmate’ are words appropriated by culture; it was interesting to take the exhibition title from one of the hoarding boards surrounding the Trinity Shopping Centre development and place it within a church, to see what that threw up. My project is a documentary, so I feel it is important to represent Danniella as truthfully as possible. We often work very collaboratively and discursively. My sister is very important and fascinating to me, I’m driven to explore both her inner and outer life and photography is the ideal medium through which to do this.

Anne-Marie Atkinson

Retail work has often been referred to as a thankless task; some have proclaimed it is a soulless experience. To many it has however crossed over into the realms of the spiritual in terms of how we experience it

I am interested in the spaces we find in-between our daily routes, the architecture we are surrounded by shapes our habits and behaviours.
Often it is remarked how globalisation renders one city indistinguishable from the next. Despite this our cities are ever evolving epicentres of ideas and contradictions. We come together for our own individual purposes; the presence people leave behind often contributes to the next person’s experience of a time and a place.

Within the spaces we create and inhabit, there is an infinite amount of information vying for our attention, how much we absorb and experience is down to us as individuals

In each of the three set ups I placed a large QR tag in to the frame. So what you get in the final print is a barcode that links to a connected series of images on my site that expand upon the shows overall theme, so the act of scanning the barcode is in a sense a connection to the idea of retail/redemption as a new religion.

© Steve Schofield

The work was shot with a large format camera so I find that always makes me look at a place differently, it forces you to be a little more patient and take the time to look a little deeper and take in small details you would perhaps ordinarily pass by. Leeds is a great city to be around at the moment, it has some amazing architecture and it feels like a positive place where things can happen.

Soul is linked to people’s inner beliefs – their very person – how do you feel you’ve represented this?

A very subjective matter, I think there are themes and threads of thought that run through this work that have possibly crept in from the work I have been doing over the last six months, I am fascinated by religion as a subject and a lot of my recent work has been centred around faith and its numerous representations. For me the very act of creating something becomes a bit of a baring of the soul, it is exciting though, the way things evolve after the shutter has been pressed!

Steve Schofield

© Alex Dodgson

Shooting for this exhibition has made me look at the city centre with new eyes and most notably at the seemingly endless sea of people that wander through it. To walk through the shopping centre is to walk through a mass of nameless faces that fade into the background with only a few steps further. I wanted to listen to some of these people’s stories and reflect on this as a photographer. The notion of storytelling remains fundamentally rooted in what makes us individuals and something i have really tried to reflect in my work.

Alex Dodgson

Forty years ago John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, drawing on the ideas of Walter Benjamin, offered a revelatory treatment of the way in which the image bank of images from the history of art and religion are used in the contemporary ‘publicity’ images which form such an important element of our environment. 1985 I published an essay “Allegory in the World of the Commodity” on Walter Benjamin and his study of the poet, Charles Baudelaire. The themes and ideas that inform these candid photographs are ones that I have been thinking about ever since the ideas and images explored there.

© Lloyd Spencer

For this exhibition I have created two “stained-glass windows” by taking many (several hundred) photos on my mobile phone. These were processed by means of the Instagram mobile phone app. and then printed as a bright backlit poster.

Each of the images was captured candidly and hence has a documentary value. But the moments captured are familiar, even typical, emblematic of our shopping “complex”, our pursuit of the new, and the ever-the-same. In order to make contemplation of these images easier I have presented 12 of these images in square frames along one aisle of the church.

Lloyd Spencer
Each image © the artist (as labelled). Main image © Alex Dodgson. All Rights Reserved. Click on each to view large as a gallery. Artist’s names link to their website/online folio.

For more, visit Trinity Church on Boar Lane – the exhibition runs to May 18th – or visit the website

One Comment
  1. Paul 10th May 2012

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