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Tom Wood - The DPA Work (pending)

This project emerged from two consecutive exhibitions curated by Quayle as part of the Look 13 Liverpool International Photography Festival Parallel Programme. Tom Wood - the DPA Work [Audy Murpfy is Dead] in Tom Wood The DPA Work: Photographs of Rainhill Hospital and Cammell Laird Shipyard. Vols. 1 - 3. Gottingen, Steidl Verlag: A three-volume book curated, edited, sequenced and designed by Quayle with Tom Wood. Quayle also commissioned new writing from Audrey Linkman and Leo Fitzmaurice, alongside new poetry by Clare Shaw.

As Principle Investigator and collaborator Quayle retrieved a previously unseen collection of Tom Wood’s photographs of Rainhill Hospital and Cammell Laird Shipyard, which were originally commissioned by the DPA (The Documentary Photography Archive) in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Quayle took on multiple roles as author/researcher, curator, (commissioning) editor and designer. The research highlighted the original context in which the photographs were made but also expands on the status of the work beyond its documentary function and its relationship with socially engaged practice as an agent of change. Wood undertook both commissions prior to the closure of both institutions and the Rainhill project was originally supported by the Open Eye Gallery and the mental health Charity MIND in response to the government’s ‘Care in the Community’ policy. Individual examples of Wood’s work from these projects have only ever been published or exhibited in isolation, and without the context of this research, which is key to their contemporary understanding and significance.

This was explored in the essay ‘Tom Wood – The DPA Work [Audy Murpfy is Dead]’ which provides the connective thread for all aspects of the project, which has led to a three volume collection of photobooks due to be published by Steidl and co-published by the University of Chester. The project is the culmination of my research, which involved the invited participation of students, external contributors and collaboration with museums, galleries and public archives.

In 2013, as part of an ongoing collaboration with Tom Wood, Quayle curated two consecutive exhibitions: Tom Wood – The DPA Work: Photographs of Rainhill Hospital and Cammell Laird Shipyard at CASC (Contemporary Art Space Chester) at the University of Chester Kingsway site as part of the Parallel Programme for Look 13. The research related to the exhibitions and books has led to new insights related to deindustrialisation, working lives, mental health, ageing and the care of the elderly.

Wood’s images effectively provided the bedrock upon which new layers of meaning have been overlaid as part of this process. As part of what could be described as a stratification process I contacted Audrey Linkman - founder of the Documentary Photography Archive. Quayle invited Linkman to write an essay, which reflects upon the historic and contemporary significance of the DPA’s commissions during the late 1980s/early 1990s. The DPA Work was also important for the emergence of Wood, Martin Parr and their contemporaries, as well as the longer-term impact on British and International photography as an art form, and its wider impact related to ‘socially-engaged’ practices. I also commissioned leading UK poet Clare Shaw, whose work also addresses issues related to mental health, to write new poems specifically in response to the Rainhill images.

I co-edited/designed the sequence and layout of the series of images which each book comprises. Steidl will publish three volumes presented in a facsimile archive DPA box, which will also include a volume of 19th c. archive portraits which were found during the time of Wood’s commission. This alongside other archive material was collected and researched from Wirral Archives Service and elsewhere throughout the project.

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