John Davies

metropoli project

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.

urban dreams

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 it’s 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.

the 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 nation.
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.

previous exhibitions

2004 Ffotogallery at Turner House Gallery, Penarth (near Cardiff) presented a selection of all eight cities, January to February.
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.
image gallery

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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