Today I went to see Homes Of Football, an exhibition of photography by Stuart Roy Clarke in the National Football Museum in Manchester. The space in which the images are exhibited is not ideal, there is not enough room to stand back and appreciate the images. However, the photographs themselves are certainly worth a trip to the Urbis. If your partner likes shopping and is not interested in football or photography this is an ideal place to escape the sale madness for an hour and let your partner search for bargains and other stuff that you never knew you needed or wanted. Entrance is free too!
The subject of this exhibition is not so much the sport of football itself, but the culture and the people and places where it is played. It shows us where and how a large segment of the British people spend a couple of hours every Saturday. The first image in the show is iconic: John Motson (Motty), dressed in his distinctive sheepskin coat, with a microphone in his hand, standing in the middle of a snow covered pitch. It immediately conjured up memories of listening to the radio in the middle of winter, anxiously waiting to hear if a much anticipated match would go ahead. This is the effect many pictures in this exhibition had on me: they reminded me of football moments, some to do with particular matches, but also evoking the atmosphere of going to a match. Those memories were not all pleasant: one of the images is of a row of men pissing against a wall. I don’t need to tell you what sounds and smells came to mind… Another image that stuck in my mind is of some spectators watching a match. There are quite a few of images showing people watching football, but this one is ‘made’ by the dog that is peering over the wall, watching the match too. The dog’s eyes are in fact staring just to side of the photographer, making it clear that the dog is not posing, but watching what is going on on the pitch. It also illustrates a characteristic of the work on show here: the photographer is not in the picture, not just literally. I am not sure if Roy Stuart Clarke made a conscious effort to do this but he does not impose his point of view (pardon the pun), he is not lecturing the viewer, or telling him/her only his side of the story. I find this approach works very well in documentary style photography.
In addition to the images there is also a short TV documentary about the long term project that Stuart Roy Clarke embarked upon and that resulted in this exhibition. One of the interesting things he said about these photographs was that they were meant to be ‘what it would say if it could photograph itself.’
The exhibition is co-curated by designer Wayne Hemingway and has a specially recorded soundtrack by Mercury Prize nominated band British Sea Power. Well worth a visit, but you’ll have to be quick, it ends on the 6th of January. I asked Stuart what the plans are for this exhibition and he emailed me to say that there are plans to have his pictures in Dortmund Borusseum (a museum in the Borrusia Dortmund stadium) during the summer time of 2013. Kevin Moore (Director of the National Football Museum) has stated: The National Football Museum is committed to the long-term presence of the Homes of Football. After the success of Stuart Roy Clarke’s opening exhibition, plans to display a long-term changing exhibition of these much loved photographs will be unveiled early in 2013. The Museum is also dedicated to raising funds to digitise this unique collection to make it accessible to an even wider audience.