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Photographer profile - Tom Wood

PUBLISHED: 00:00 05 March 2018

Top Deck, Seacombe Ferry, by Tom Wood, 1986 (® Tom Wood)

Top Deck, Seacombe Ferry, by Tom Wood, 1986 (® Tom Wood)


Photographer Tom Wood has spent nearly two decades documenting the people and the places of the Wirral.

Woodside Ferry Terminal, by Tom Wood, 1979 (® Tom Wood) Woodside Ferry Terminal, by Tom Wood, 1979 (® Tom Wood)

Photographs taken by Tom Wood in the 1970s and 80s on his daily commute from the Wirral to Liverpool across the River Mersey are now on display at Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery.

‘I moved to New Brighton just after I married in 1978 and got a job as a photography technician at the Art School in Liverpool. A housing agency placed us in a property right on the prom in New Brighton, as you could imagine I was thrilled,’ said Tom, originally from County Mayo. Most days while waiting for the boat, on board the ferry and then later at the Pier Head, he would snap away. ‘I had already started taking photographs of the women’s market and football in Liverpool, and of New Brighton in the summer, but the photographs taken onboard the Mersey Ferry weren’t a project; it just started as a way to pass the time.’

These images have now been selected from 1000s of rolls of film for the exhibition, The Pier Head- Tom Wood. Ninety photographs show commuters, families, friends, the old and the young making the everyday journey across the river, over a kilometre from shore to shore. Tom’s new book, Termini, launched alongside the exhibition and features a range of images from the show.

‘Before I was working in portraits and with tripods, with this I was just catching people off guard. Before long, people started to recognise me and would want me to take their picture. They would call me ‘photie man’ or David – as David Bailey was popular at the time.’

Above Pier Head, by Tom Wood, 1985 (�Tom Wood) Above Pier Head, by Tom Wood, 1985 (�Tom Wood)

‘I started to take their addresses and would post the image out or carry a box around with me and pass it to them on the ferry. In my archive I found I still have two boxes of images to give away,’ said Tom, who has published numerous photography books, two of which Looking for Love (1989) and Photie Man (2005) are in included in Source Photographic Review’s list of The Greatest 150 Photo Books of All Time. He has also had solo and group exhibitions worldwide and his work is represented in the collections of major museums.

Tom, aged 67, was overwhelmed by the reaction to this exhibition, which on opening night saw hundreds of people queuing to get in for a chance to chat with the photographer or ask him to sign their book.

‘Many people didn’t even know they had been photographed. I was overwhelmed by people’s stories, humbled by the response. A teenage couple I photographed on a bench in Vale Park, New Brighton, both came but separately – they had not seen each other in 30 years. Half the people in the photos, if not more, were from the Wirral.

‘When people are waiting, it was almost as if they were in a state of grace, dreaming. Nowadays with mobile phones and technology, you don’t have that.’

The Pier Head - Tom Wood,

until March 25th at Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool. www.openeye.org.uk

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