Concrete Dreams

Tom Merilion's photographs of Birmingham condense the city without minimising any of its impact. These images, created over an eighteen-month period, evoke the visual feel of the models from which the buildings featured evolved. This reductionist manifesto has resulted in a series of photographs that manage to get beneath the skin of the city and revitalise the ordinary with a new sense of wonder. This perspective allows the viewer to question accepted notions of scale, planning, aesthetics, architecture and beauty. The photographs overflow with an affection for, and familiarity with, the structures themselves as well as for the cultural, social and economic landmarks they represent. They are also a powerful memento of the city where Tom spent his youth and adolescence; nostalgic portraits of the landmarks by which he came to know the city.

Many of the landmarks were once held in high civic esteem, graced postcards and served as a testament to the city's motto: Forward. In a sophisticated reversal of scale, these landmarks are made to appear as nothing more substantial than pieces of a model. This subversion of perceptions of form and functionality renders the ordinary unique and the imperfect perfect. Chaotic roads become ordered and calm, streets radiate a clinical sense of order, concrete has a lustre of light and warmth and the sky a semi-tropical hue. The photographs offer the viewer the opportunity to take the role of planner and re-arrange the blocks once again to create ones own concrete dream of Birmingham.

Ben Davies


Archive images from the Library of Birmingham. Thanks to Pete James.