Tom Wood is an Irish photographer best known for capturing the streets of Liverpool and Merseyside from 1978 to 2001.Read More
Wood grew up in County Mayo in the west of Ireland, before moving to England as an adolescent after his Catholic mother was pushed away for marrying his Protestant father.
Wood studied conceptual painting at Leicester Polytechnic from 1973 to 1976, before transitioning to photography after being inspired by experimental film. In 1978, Wood moved to Merseyside, and later to North Wales, where he teaches at Coleg Llandrillo Cymru.
Tom Wood's photographs are known for their matter-of-fact depiction of working-class subjects captured in the streets or on public transportation and shot with warmth and understanding.
From 1982 to 1985, Wood photographed the comings and goings at the Chelsea Reach nightclub in New Brighton, capturing the drunken and brash interactions of its patrons. The 31 resulting photographs documented the vitality of youthful aspirations, featuring young men and women engaged in promiscuous acts, draped in glam, or succumbed to boredom.
From 1978 to 2001, Wood photographed the streets of Liverpool and Merseyside, assembling a portrait of the region through subjects captured on public transportation during off-peak hour commutes, resulting in over 3000 rolls of film that narrate an 'epic of the everyday'.
Stanley Road - Bootle (1989) shows two children sitting inside a passing bus, who are looking out at the camera while two elderly women engage in conversation behind them. Images such as these have been published in the books All Zones Off Peak (1998) and Bus Odyssey (2001), documenting Liverpool in motion.
In the series 'Men / Women', Wood organised photographs from his archives under the headings 'Men' and 'Women', resulting in a study of gender, character, and place.
Amongst the photographs, Not Miss New Brighton (1978/1979) depicts two girls seated on the hood of a red car spread in seductive poses. Both look into the camera defiantly, offering a sharp contrast to the commonplace associations that tie beauty with submission.
The series was first shown at the Photographers' Gallery in London in 2012, varying in format, style, and colour—the memorable faces of Wood's subjects consolidating the images as an anthropology of the everyday.
Referred to as a 'pioneering colourist' by critic Sean O'Hagan, Wood makes his own prints in the darkroom, endlessly experimenting to achieve the texture and balance that imbue his photographs with the proximity and warmth of the human. Photographer Simon Roberts has said that Wood captures his subjects up close without the voyeurism and intrusiveness that often accompany street portraiture.
Wood is the 2007 recipient of the Major Production Award, Art Council of Wales; the 2002 Prix Dialogue de l'Humanité; the 2000 Year of the Artist Award, Art Council of England; and the 1998 Terence Donovan Award, Royal Photographic Society Bath.
Tom Wood has been the subject of solo and group exhibitions across the world.
Select solo exhibitions include Silencio, Paris (2020); Rencontres d'Arles, France (2019); Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool (2018); Thomas Erben Gallery, New York (2013); The Photographers' Gallery, London (2012); Galerie Albrecht, Berlin (2011); National Museum, Krakow (2010); Shanghai Biennale (2006); The Approach, London (2006); The National Museum of Photography, Copenhagen (2006); and Foam Museum, Amsterdam (2005).
Select group exhibitions include Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2018); The House of Photography, Deichtorhallen Hamburg (2018); Brighton Photo Fringe (2016); Lyon Biennale (2013); Jeu de Paume, Paris (2009); Frieze, London (2008); Tate Britain, London (2007); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2006); and Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2004).
Elaine YJ Zheng | Ocula | 2022