Richard Warren

20thc British art and poetry (mainly), plus bits of my own – "Clearly I tap to you clearly along the plumbing of the world" (W S Graham)

Welcome to Darlo

I’ve pretty much neglected this blog lately, and in particular have failed to report, as I fully intended, on the welcome show of the wonderful Gerald Wilde at the October Gallery, finishing tomorrow. Apologies.

To begin again, a word of praise instead for the extraordinary show of photos by Janet Mendelsohn, just opened at the Ikon in Birmingham, taken in Balsall Heath in the late and grim ‘sixties. Disturbing, affectionate but quite unsentimental, and oddly contemporary in some respects. And in black and white, as they have to be.

My childhood and youth were one long wait for both films in colour at the pictures, for colour snapshots, for colour tellies, for the Sunday colour supplement, and for the startling introduction of colour into men’s clothing circa 1967 as permitted by the passage of the psychedelic experience into mainstream design. Before these, in a real sense, we all saw the world in black and white because all our visual points of reference were all in black and white. But psychedelics are a flat, colouring book business, and after these our awareness of everyday tonality was hugely reduced.

About ten years ago I took a dozen shots on a walk around Darlaston, just down the road in the Black (and white) Country, but could never think what to do with them. After seeing the Mendelsohn photos, it dawned on me that mine too deserved to be in black and white, so – thanks to the greyscale option – here they are. (Click for slide show / enlargements.) They’re not the sharpest images, but I think the change suits them. The Darlaston they portray appears depopulated, showing only sad traces of human activity. But you have to admire (while condemning his homophobia) the chutzpah of the graffiti writer who couldn’t spell “bastard”.

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3 responses to “Welcome to Darlo

  1. Charlotte Mackie January 29, 2016 at 5:51 pm

    Was wondering what had happened to you, as I really look forward to your blog.
    Not sure of your age, but as I’m in my mid sixties and presumed you were maybe the same, I started to fear the worst.
    But, thank goodness, here you are again! My year looks brighter already…but do wonder if you really took your photos in Darlston not Darlaston?
    Affectionately,
    Charlotte

    • richardawarren January 29, 2016 at 7:16 pm

      Hi Charlotte. No, the worst is still some way off, hopefully! I’m no Black Country historian, but I’ve a suspicion that Darlston is an older or variant spelling of Darlaston – ??

  2. stue1967 January 30, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    Nice shots but when I go back to the Black Country now, closed down is a prevailing theme.

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