In a series of understated and eloquent photographs, Stephen J Morgan encapsulates Birmingham with a measured beauty, capturing its Irishness and its brutal ugliness. Falling into the centre of mainstream European fine art photography, Stephens work is none-the- less a quintessential account of the world and habitat of the immigrant Irish working class as in the photograph above, Where my grandfather drank, 2002.
He writes: I have always been intrigued with memory, its abstract nature and the relationship it has with photographs and their relationship to me. Over the last seven years I have worked in two ways. The first, as in the series I Was Born an English Catholic I photographed what I knew and where I came from. I took photographs in the Ladywood Social Club in Birmingham, the three bars where my grandfather drank and the two stages he sang on. I didnt want to just document the club; I wanted to show where he stood and where he sang. Five images were enough, no more, which was a revelation to me. With this work I also looked at my relationship to religion, Irishness and how those two things shaped me and gave me my identity.
The second, which I think came as a reaction to looking inwards, made me look outwards at the extraordinary within the everyday.
The mundane, like a childs toy plane stuck in a hedge from the series All Very Beautiful But Not Exactly What Im Looking For or a cup being washed in a sink from the series On Any Given Day to the monumental, like a tower block rising out of the fog from the series Ladywood Fenian.
Both ways of working, I think, are ephemeral; time passes. With the first I attempt to bring fragments of my life to the attention of myself and with the second I hope to bring fragments of the everyday to the attention of the viewer. However, with my latest series, Ladywood Fenian I feel the work spans both ways of working.
Established by Jules Wright, the founder and creative director of the award-winning Wapping Project
in East London, the Wapping Project Bankside is a new commercial gallery space dedicated to championing photography and film. Artists represented include: Susan Meiselas, Deborah Turbeville, Lillian Bassman, Peter Marlow and Elina Brotherus. Essentially my work stems from who I am, where Im from and how I got here.