At the beginning of 2000 I started an ambitious project to investigate
and photograph Britain's major post-industrial cities.
My aim has been to document the multi-layered character of metropolitan
areas and to identify the particular character, uniqueness and qualities
of differing regional centres. I also wanted to produce a coherent series
of images which reflect the positive achievements and realities within
our continually changing urban space. I have tried to remain objective
in this documentary work but a theme that has became increasingly important
is to question as well as celebrate our collective responsibility in
shaping the environments in which we live.
From the early 1980’s I documented aspects of the industrial
and urban landscape of northern England and south Wales. These selected
images formed the 1986 exhibition and publication "A Green &
Pleasant Land". At this period in history many British cities were
still the nerve centres for industrial activity. But during the 80’s
and increasingly in the 90’s many of these metropolitan centres
saw significant changes in their economic fortunes with the growth of
service industries and a decline in manufacturing production and loss
of population. By the beginning of the 21st C. these post-industrial
cities had started to re-invent their role and image as centres for
knowledge and learning, culture and entertainment along with the prerequisite
of numerous shopping re-developments and the creation of urban icons.
Many commercial developers saw substantial opportunities in transforming
run-down office and industrial buildings into designer apartments, bars
and retail outlets.
Each city has developed strategies to increase its competitive
advantage to attract inward investment and commerce. Batteries of urban
designers have been employed to create improvements in the public realm,
transport and infrastructure of the entire city with the city
centre as the focal point for civic aspiration and commercial gain.
In the new pictures I have made for this project I have attempted to
document these themes and to make sense of the new developments and
changes to our post industrial cities.
I have developed different themes concerned with the infrastructure
and the particular characteristics of social and civic architecture
unique to each city. I was the first photographer to be commissioned
by the Museum of London in 2001 when I agreed to explore the major arterial
road links which run through the capital. In Birmingham and Glasgow
I documented the open central spaces which attract people - especially
the popular visited areas and the structures symbolising civic pride. The
Manchester work concentrates on the newly created public and private
pedestrian open spaces which are associated with recent building developments
in the city centre. In Newcastle and Gateshead it was the historic layering
of structures and the impact of T Dan Smith's characteristic modern
developments that were significant. The Liverpool images focus on the
architectural structures and symbols associated with Britain as a warring
This work has been funded or sponsored by Ffotogallery in Cardiff,
Birmingham Central Library, Arts Council of Wales, Museum of London,
Newcastle and Gateshead City Councils, Manchester City Galleries and
Lyson Limited. My special thanks to Ffotogallery who originally gave
seed funding to support the Metropoli project.
2004 Ffotogallery at Turner House Gallery, Penarth
(near Cardiff) presented a selection of all eight cities, January
2003 Manchester Art Gallery and Urbis
in Manchester jointly showed large format colour prints of central
Manchester, May to September.
2002 Zelda Cheatle Gallery in London showed colour
prints of London and B&W prints from Birmingham, Belfast, Glasgow,
Swansea and Newcastle/Gateshead, July to September.
2002 Belfast Exposed showed the first part of the
Metropoli exhibition, January to February
2001 Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery showed
Birmingham work, May to September.
2001 Ffotogallery in Cardiff showed the first part
of the Metropoli exhibition which included work from Belfast, Birmingham,
Glasgow & Swansea, February to April.
"The virtue of pictures taken on this scale and with this
degree of precision is that they can sustain any amount of reflection."
from Portfolio Magazine, in Ian Jeffrey's review, "Far and
Wide - The City Pictures of John Davies", May 2001.
"When a photographer as consistent and reliable
as John Davies turns to digital, arts world eyebrows are raised...
His admirers need not worry; the pictures are classic John Davies...
Davies' expertise lies in how little he seems to say about the places
he shows; with carefully planned overhead viewpoints, ultra-wide perspective
and all-over sharpness he seems to show us everything, and invites
us to look where we like and draw our own conclusions."
from City Life Magazine, in Paul Herrmann's review of the "Metropolis:
Manchester" exhibition at Manchester Art gallery in May 2003.
Images may not be reproduced in any form or by any means without
the permission of John DaviesPhoto and material Copyright ©
John Davies 1976 - 2011