The Tidy Street project was an opportunity to get close to people. After sending out a flyer, I knocked on people’s doors and was met with everything from angry glares to gin cocktails. It was an incredible journey into the inner workings of one ordinary street and the worlds it contains. In each household I tried to assist in looking for images that can represent the people who live there. In this role I have been able to get a perspective on photography and the purpose it serves in our lives; stimulating memory.
The idea of illuminated windows in the street was to produce random collisions of meaning, where worlds and times are able to crash into each other producing a nonsensical kind of visual melody. This, coupled with the enticing invitation to stop and stare was designed to create in the viewer a sense of the warmth and safety of the home as a place where the past coexists with the future.
By working with a random cross-section of the community of people chosen from one street I freed myself from the responsibility of attempting to portray the residents myself. By sharing photographs we open ourselves to the possibility of finding parallels rather than differences. This mirroring effect, the recognition of ourselves in others is essential in the journey towards peace and away from conflict.
Some participating residents included;
Heather Hacker: Heather has lived in Brighton since the late forties. She moved to Tidy Street after the death of her husband and has lived there for nearly thirty years. She says she knows many of her neighbours and is keen to take part in the project, using a photograph of herself and her father taken by her mother in Kenya where Heather lived as a child. Heather said she was curious to know why Lisa had chosen Tidy Street for the project and she comments; ‘I think it’s a great idea. I’m really curious to see what everybody will use for their windows.’
Sarah Wright: Sarah has lived in Tidy Street for 15 years. She has a keen interest in local history and thought the idea was very original. To begin with Sarah was unsure of which image to use. Sarah adds: ‘I think it’s a jolly good idea. It must be fascinating to meet everybody on the street and find out what makes them tick.’ Sarah’s photograph is of herself with children twenty years ago.
Darren and Lore Johnson were very supportive of the idea. “I work as events organiser at the Grand, so I understand the challenge of putting something like this together,’ comments Darren, and adds ‘It’s obvious but true that one street contains so many interesting stories. Pictures are a great way to see in to the soul of the street and catch a glimpse of what’s truly behind those net curtains.’
I wanted to connect the residents of this central city street through their everyday experiences and the medium of the ‘snapshot’ photograph fitted this goal perfectly. I also wanted to bring photography to a larger audience than the traditional gallery setting can reach.
I was given photographs from the beginning of the last century to ones taken recently and all share a common theme of personal, ordinary experience, photos of dads and their daughters on the beach, kids larking about on the sofa at home, all taken at different times in the last 100 years, but all surprisingly familiar to the viewer.
This is very much a celebration of normal life and of living history. I wanted to avoid the gallery setting to show this work; it’s an exhibition created by the street, so it’s fitting to exhibit this in the street. I want the public to be able to enjoy this exhibition at their leisure as they to go about their everyday life.