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The Long Way Home

Bernard Fallon's Liverpool images

3 March to 15 July 2007

Please note that this exhibition has now closed

Four young boys and a girl stand on the corner of Scotland Road and Woodstock Street in 1969 or 1970. They are outside the Globe pub, which has since been demolished.'After school many kids played outside, so if they saw something unusual they were attracted to it. Taking photos of a few curious kids often led to conversation, but a group usually got loud and boisterous.' Bernard Fallon A view looking west down Everton Brow. 'Of endless interest, too, were the bombed dissections of houses and tenements where you could see pre-war wallpaper surrounding the ancient fireplaces repeated 3 floors up. Clearly framed memorials of air rage from the Blitz in the 1940s.The damage worsened as the bus went along Stanley Road and passed into Scotland Road. Along this three-quarters of a mile there were huge gaps where terraced back-to-backs once marched up Everton Brow. The area was literally flattened as the city had demolished many homes and removed the residents miles away to new estates in Kirkby, Skelmersdale and Speke.As one local wit said, 'What the Luftwaffe failed to do, the city corporation finished off.' Bernard Fallon The dust from a grain elevator caught in beams of sunlight creates a magical effect behind this bargeman having a cuppa in the docks at Liverpool.'Taking photographs in Liverpool is fairly easy because most people dont really mind. As long as dignity isnt upset and respect is acknowledged then the average Scouser, (as long as he or she is employed) is fairly happy to be photographed.Most of my photographs of people were taken at a nice co-operative distance, as I had realised that the closer I got, the better the picture. This was easier than might seem possible with total strangers. Just a basic 'do you mind?' or 'is it ok to take a few snaps?' And since I didnt have any commercial motives, taking a photo or two didnt really matter.' Bernard Fallon Crosby, 1972. 'This photograph was taken just after the introduction of decimal currency in England, and it was still the era of trading stamps. These babies had been left outside, not as a sign of abandonment, but really as a sign of their parents' confidence that everything would be OK. Or maybe either they weren't able to get the large prams into the shop, or it was the shop's policy to leave prams outside. The babies seem to be having a conversation, perhaps discussing their security?' Bernard Fallon Wedding cake, 1968. 'I began to like photographing interiors for their quiet statements about the human condition. This photograph was taken at a house in Crosby, at the first wedding that I ever photographed. It was taken well into the reception, as you can see from the confetti on the floor and the abandoned food on the table.' Bernard Fallon Mr Burke, Waterloo sweep, 1972. 'I knew the chimney sweep, Mr Burke, was the last of a generation so I spent a couple of days with him getting shots of cleaning out chimneys and dumping the soot. He was permanently stained with soot.He worked all week around Waterloo and he had a string of loyal customers who always gave him a cup of tea.I also photographed another sweep who was totally different in every way possible, most of all because he actively wanted to be at weddings, as a sign of good luck to the marriage.This picture represented a slightly different approach for me. I had just come back from working in north California and I was adopting a documentary style of photographing people, where I got to know them quite well before taking their picture' Bernard Fallon The view from a Lamey tug on the Mersey, with Wallasey in the background, 1967. 'I began to see further possibilities in making interesting pictures and I looked for more lively things to photograph.I asked my neighbour, Jack Mayers, if I could get a ride on the tug he worked on. Yes, it was easy as that and it was an exciting afternoon on the Mersey. You could really feel the tide and engines struggling as we pulled in a Polish freighter.The wind and tide all dramatised my pictures of the crew working to get the visiting freighter safely into dock.' Bernard Fallon Cigarette, 1968. 'As I took more photographs, I did get more involved and moved closer to people I thought represented the spirit of the moment.My method was to never disturb the ambiance, just to record it.' Bernard Fallon Cathedral and chimney pots, 1968. 'When it snowed Liverpool enjoyed a muffled quietness and a short, but lovely, facelift. The sooty Victorian brickwork and other architectural details enjoyed a mini revival as the snow highlighted its extraordinary craftsmanship.' Bernard Fallon

All photographs © Bernard Fallon. Click on each thumbnail to see a larger version of the image.

"I took these pictures as an amateur in the true sense of the word. Not only because I wasn’t paid to do them but also that I loved the sensation of events and scenes materializing in the viewfinder"
Bernard Fallon 2007

Bernard Fallon was born into a large Liverpool Irish family in Crosby, Liverpool in 1949. He pursued his interest in painting and photography at the Liverpool College of Art for four years.

The Long Way Home covers the period between 1966 and 1975, when Fallon was exploring Liverpool and commuting to the Art School. He was fascinated by the changing urban landscape and social environment that he witnessed on his route and he began documenting life around Liverpool. His approach was inspired by the photojournalism and candid style of photographic masters such as Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Many of the images were taken during 1969 and 1970, when Fallon was becoming increasingly drawn towards the Scotland Road community. Keen to document the great social changes that were taking place in the area at that time, the photographs formed the basis of his Art School final year assignment. It was during this project that he that he further developed his social realism style, with people central to the subject, photographed at a cooperative distance. Also important was a strong composition and a desire to capture the ‘essential’ moment – the tension between beauty and reality

Listen to Bernard's guided tour of the exhibition

Download a podcast of Bernard Fallon' s guided tour| of the exhibition, to hear the stories behind some of his pictures.

Further information

After leaving college Bernard Fallon spent a year at the Leicester Polytechnic School of Photography, then worked in London and later moved to Los Angeles as a photojournalist. He has travelled extensively and his work has been published around the world. He has two sons, and divides his time between photography, painting and teaching.

Visit Bernard Fallon's website|.