The A41 Project – visualising inequality

The A41 Project - visualising inequality by Colin McPherson Image copyright Colin McPherson

As I hope my occasional articles show there are many different approaches and styles within the field of photography. Indeed as the decade moves on it becomes harder to even define what photography is.

Sometimes though photography can be used as a way to communicate a point, or illustrate some research, and a new exhibition in West Bromwich attempts to do just that.

The A41 Project - visualising inequality, features photographs by artist Colin McPherson taken as he travelled through the West Midlands, passing through some of the wealthiest and some of the most deprived areas of England.

"The project has been one year in the making: the last six months of which I have spent on the road, travelling the length of the A41 from near my home on the Wirral down to London - and back again several times," says McPherson. "Photographers are particularly fond of road trips and journeys as they instil a sense of narrative and direction in the work being made."

"Through the Equality Trust, participatory photography groups were established in London, Milton Keynes, the West Midlands and Merseyside. These groups consisted of people with an interest in the subjects of inequality and photography and who were keen, like me, to experiment and look creatively at how the issues could be illustrated using the photographic image."

McPherson's pictures are based on themes, statistics or ideas he researched, or those that emerged from the workshops with the participatory groups.

"Often I would be looking to illustrate a specific fact or quote, and in the final pieces of work, I turned these into questions," he says. This means that the pictures are shown with a question below them as you can see here.

Image copyright Colin McPherson

"Without answering these questions, I am requesting the viewer to consider what is being asked, therefore allowing a degree of ambiguity which is often a necessary part of the artistic process and presentation," McPherson adds.

Professor Kate Pickett from the Equality Trust said: "The evidence that inequality damages society is overwhelming. It affects many aspects of life including physical and mental health, children's well-being and rates of violent crime. We hope that the A41 Project will provoke debate and help advance the movement for a more equal society."

Throughout the project McPherson visited many parts of the country he had not seen before, including parts touched by the Industrial Revolution.

Image copyright Colin McPherson

"I also came across Riches Street in Wolverhampton, except the word Street was no longer there. It seemed to be a perfect and poignant message, and I couldn't help wondering whether there was a Rags Street close by which could have illustrated the gap between rich and poor symbolically."

McPherson worked on film for this series, something he notes was an antidote to working in a fast-moving digital world. "It has been an opportunity to apply the handbrake and really think meticulously about how the work is conceived and made.

"The result is a collection of 25 images, each one metre by one metre, which forms a body of work which aims to question, inform and stimulate - and start to define how to take a concept such as inequality and set it to photography."

Image copyright Colin McPherson

The A41 Project - visualising inequality is on show at The Public gallery in West Bromwich 6 May 2013.

You can see more of Colin McPherson's work on his website.