Tag Archives: Spectators

David Walker – Birds Don’t Sing in The Dark

I posted last month, David Walker’s Spectators series in conjunction with the release of his book of the same name. People watching, and people-watching are the core of the series which was shot between 1983-84. The Spectators so engrossed in their sport that David went unnoticed.

David’s work differs from most of what I publish. He comes from an art direction background, creating work on brief, using the appropriate method for the job. This is something I always encourage students to do, when for example, making artist’s books. The form should be determined by the content. Can the form of the book lend itself to the way the reader perceives or uses the book?

Whereas most would tackle a project with a fairly consistent aesthetic style, David tackles each project very differently, as shown  here in two projects shot during the same period. From Kev to Bev (1985-86), and Birds Don’t Sing in the Dark (1983-87)

Continuing from his Spectators project, David added:

What followed was a commission from Rod Taylor at Wigan Metro to photograph the people of Leigh. I decided to create a life size mural around the large gallery walls at the Turnpike with the characters I chose peaking out from the background at various intervals. ‘From Kev to Bev’ was based on a young married couple I found in Leigh.

The work was shown in an Arts Programme ‘Celebration’ by the BBC. Twelve of the images from that show were used some years later in a 1997 Calendar by the prestigious The Chase in Manchester titled ‘THERES NOWT SO QUEER AS FOLK’.

They won two D&AD Awards, one for photography and one for Design. It also won the Calendar of the year in Creative Review.

I was very precious about whether this work was being shown as it was originally intended so I decided audaciously therefore to turn down The Photographers Gallery who wanted to show the portraits framed individually.

Whilst working on that show I was conscious that I was not revealing my true character in my work so I began photographing images which reflected the mood I felt whilst living in a Thatcherite Britain, a dark brooding colourless country without much light at the end of a very long dark tunnel.

During that period I went to a gig and one of the acts was an Irish singer songwriter, Paul O’Reilly, and a lyric in one of the songs was ‘birds don’t sing in the dark’. I couldn’t believe it because one of the images I took in the new series was of a bird’s nest in a butchered bush, I asked him therefore if I could use it as a title to my project. He agreed

‘Birds’ was also a change in direction for me, I decided right there that from now on there would be no more people in my photographs.

All images © David Walker.

David Walker – Spectators

Today I published a book by David Walker called Spectators. As part of his proposal, David sent me some notes explaining the work. There are more posts planned for next year which present more of David’s work; work that wouldn’t fit in terms of a Café Royal publications but is still very relevant in terms of UK Social Documentary.

I began making photographs in 1983. I’d been working as an Art Director in Advertising since I left school at 15, and at the ripe old age of 35 I began to look and appreciate the work of Weegee (Arthur Fellig), Eugene Smith, Gary Winogrand, and Tony Ray-Jones.

I was working then as one half of a freelance concept team with a writer, which afforded me a little time to persue something that I desperately needed to do (photography). I purchased a Pentax LX some lenses and began to take photographs.

One of my great interests when I was younger was Speedway Racing, I needed something to get excited about so I visited Belle Vue to see what I could find. I discovered two madly dedicated fans, and found that after their permission they were so infatuated with the sport that they forgot about me poking my camera just inches away from their animated faces. ‘SPECTATORS’ was born right there.

I enjoyed an amazing amount of success for my first project by being shortlisted at the Photographers Gallery and had shows at Oldham Art Gallery, the then prestigious Turnpike Gallery, and a part show ‘City life’ at the Cornerhouse making the front cover of the Cornerhouse magazine.

There are interesting stories surrounding every image in the book. Here are four that relate to the images below.

I managed to acquire a ticket for the semi final between Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg from my wife’s boss.The character I photographed because he came from a wealthy background would be termed as eccentric, if he was from a lower class background would be labeled MAD. I was seriously restricted in my movement so I waited patiently for this character to react to the play, when Boris won a set he stood up and gestured to a friend with the thumbs up sign.

With this image, I managed to obtain a ticket from Newcastle so that I could be in the Newcastle PEN. It was Hades in there,”I was in danger of my life”. However I managed to complete several strong images before someone stood beside me, and said in his best Geordie accent “I think you’d better go now”. The image shown here (which was shown in the Centenary of the Football League Book under the slogan “We hate humans”) was taken before the game even started.

The World Cup Snooker Final:
I decided to put my own slant on this by photographing the final between the unknown finalist Joe Johnson and Steve Davies in a Working Mens Club in Failsworth. The tension can clearly be seen on the faces of the Pool players as they watched the final frame of the tournament on the tele in the corner of the room.

Ice Hockey:
This was a very difficult shoot. I shot in several different areas before I realised that when the players were taking ‘A time out’
that they themselves became Spectators of their own sport.

Spectators by David Walker
36 pages
14cm x 20cm
b/w digital
Edition of 150

£7.00 available from Café Royal Books

All images © David Walker. Publication © Café Royal Books.