Civitas (1989)

In 1987, I was invited by Andrew Cross, then Exhibitions Organiser at Southampton Art Gallery, to develop a photographic project about the building in which the Gallery sat: the Civic Centre.

Over the next two years, I photographed both the inside and the outside of the building and, in one sequence, moved round the city with a 5 x 4” camera, photographing the Civic Centre tower as it could be seen from a distance.

I discovered that Southampton Civic Centre was typical of public building in Britain in the 1930s, and, to reflect this, I also photographed town halls and civic centres in Newport (where I lived), Swansea, Luton and Walthamstow.

The exhibition was mounted in Southampton Art Gallery in September -October 1989. The slideshow here combines installation shots with a range of photographs from the project, both my own and some archive images.

A publication accompanied the exhibition and the text which I wrote for that is included below. Also attached is an extract from the essay ‘Beyond the Exhibition’ by Liz Wells, published in the anthology The Photobook (2012). As she remarks, the publication Civitas was not so much a catalogue as a bookwork in its own right, paralleling rather than merely supporting the exhibition.

Copies of the Civitas book can be obtained direct from this website – see details under ‘Contact’.

The full set of images in the exhibition Civitas are held in the collection of Southampton Art Gallery. In addition, in 1990, 62 photographs from the project were purchased by The Royal Commission for Historic Monuments. Their collection is now housed in the Historic England Archive in Swindon.

In 2016, the image of ‘West Quay Road’ was included in the exhibition View Finders at Southampton City Art Gallery, featuring photographic work in the gallery collection.

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