John Myers' suburban West Midlands photographs to go on display in Hatfield

PUBLISHED: 15:13 24 November 2016 | UPDATED: 15:13 24 November 2016

John Myers exhibition: Nicola and Donny Osmond in 1973

John Myers exhibition: Nicola and Donny Osmond in 1973

Archant

An exhibition of black and white photographs recording life in the suburban West Midlands housing developments of the 1970s opens in Hatfield next week.

John Myers' photography of 1970s suburban life in the West MidlandsJohn Myers' photography of 1970s suburban life in the West Midlands

John Myers: The World is Not Beautiful can be viewed at the University of Hertfordshire’s Art and Design Gallery from Friday, December 2.

Myers’ remarkable, yet little-known, photographs present a tableau of life in the West Midlands of the 1970s as it has never been seen before.

In line with renewed interest in the American landscape photography of the same period, Myers’ black and white portrait and landscape photography is now attracting significant critical attention after going almost unnoticed for over 30 years.

‘Landscape’ in its broadest term can be used to describe Myers’ documentation of suburban life in his native West Midlands – the housing estates, blocks of flats, cul-de-sacs, garages and electricity substations that populated his local area.

John Myers' photography of 1970s suburban life in the West MidlandsJohn Myers' photography of 1970s suburban life in the West Midlands

Myers’ vision is nostalgic, evoking the streetscapes and uncomplicated certainties of Britain in the 1970s and simultaneously the profound economic dislocation of the early 1980s.

The exhibition includes eight poignant industrial landscapes, never previously exhibited, which capture the dramatic and rapid transition in the built environment following the collapse of British manufacturing in the early 1980s.

The West Midlands, and particularly The Black Country, were particularly badly hit as “smoke stack” industries and the architecture associated with them were replaced with vast modern distribution units and retail parks.

Myers’ penetrating portraits present everyday local people in familiar domestic settings, sitting on their sofas or standing in backyards, staring unsmiling at the camera.

John Myers' photography of 1970s suburban life in the West MidlandsJohn Myers' photography of 1970s suburban life in the West Midlands

These provide a fascinating snapshot of 1970s taste – cataloguing fashions in interior decoration, clothes and aspirations in a nostalgic appreciation of a decade.

The sculptural qualities of the design of the period are also recorded in Myers’ series of photographs of television sets and domestic furniture.

Drawing on his work as a lecturer at Stourbridge College of Art, Myers’ approach to photography was substantially inspired by the simple forms and muted palette of minimalist sculpture.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a community local history project Hatfield in the 1970s, in collaboration with Hertfordshire Libraries.

This will celebrate the post-war architecture of the town and invite local residents to share their photographs and memories of daily life in 1970s Hatfield.

On Friday, January 13, the Our Hatfield team will be at Hatfield Library with a selection of photographs from the libraries’ archives, inviting people to reminisce over tea and cake.

The team will also help to scan and upload residents’ photographs to the Our Hatfield website at www.ourhatfield.org.uk

The World is Not Beautiful is a touring exhibition organised by the University of Hertfordshire Galleries.

Following the exhibition in Hatfield, which closes on Saturday, January 21, 2017, it will tour to Departure Lounge at the Gateway Gallery, Luton, from February 24 to April 29, 2017, and Wolverhampton Art Gallery & Museum, from March 3 to May 27, 2018, with further venues to be announced.

• The UH Art and Design Gallery in College Lane is closed from December 23 to January 2 (inclusive).

The gallery’s regular opening hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, and Saturday 9am to 3.30pm.

Admission free.

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