Tom Wood can almost fool you with how relaxed or at ease his subjects look with his presence. But have no doubt in your mind, this has come after much time building up trust. It's similar to the trust of a family member, something that is both earned and, at the same time, natural. You see, in every family whether genetic or social, extended or familiar, just down the road or across the planet, there is some – one – person who looks around, records and remembers. It's a role they fulfil in a rather subconscious way that begins perhaps, rather innocently, but then grows to be almost a familial duty to the rest. They are the ones who store up the wisdom or curiosity they see, and give it back to us in words or experience, advice or, in this case, photographs. They show us who we are, who our family is, what they are doing and what odd or wonderful circumstance they are in at any given time. After all, those who look from the outside in, or the inside out, may again re-discover those new and mythic truths we keep stumbling over with our eyes and our hearts, which are here now for us to see in Mr. Wood's continual awe for the divine in the everyday. Everyday combinations of small fantastic.
A mother holding a child, or rather, pink high heels, pink shorts, a pink pocket book placed on the sidewalk, a stroller, a baby, a green bus shelter, and a red phone box. A man and wife? Or rather a man and woman who are together in an alleyway that looks down an endless vista, a corner where they have met, she holds the handle of her shopping buggy.
A teenager full of invincible youth and beauty yet almost embarrassed with latent insecurity.
A beauty pageant winner almost pinned back to a wall, overwhelmed by her sudden fame.
The boy who lines up his fish in a particular order on a dock.
A proud and serious brother in a blue sweater trying to reign in his more wild, younger sister.
A full-on snog, so close we can taste the beer and smoke on our tongues.
Well, this all happens without anything getting in the way. Mr. Wood is an opening.
The temptation, of course, is to classify or make an intellectual opinion. We are humans after all, we want to put everything, every person, every moment in its proper position, to find a meaning we can accept, and then move on. But Mr. Wood is not making photographs for a gallery. He is creating a diary of what he sees without being an intrusion. He is one of us, in the end. In a way, these portraits are a total immersion, an introduction, an invitation to linger, in a place called Merseyside, or Liverpool, or New Brighton, places I have never been, until now. But, then, there is some kind of relationship to the faces we know from Brooklyn, or is it Dublin, New York, or the faces of other small towns, maybe the seaside towns of New Jersey awash in french fries, Schevinging, the salt air, squinty eyes, the evening pleasures, that stuff that makes us all related, just a bit. But forget all that, and maybe, remember it all at the same time, if you like. That's up to you. You know what to do. While you look, maybe you too will feel the decency and politeness in the photography, in its process, in its understanding. Probably you will not get the sensation that any of these portraits is something that has been captured or taken or stolen... No, Mr. Wood is in this world, as a part of this family human, as one who has recognised his role and has had the patience to take notice of intimate epics. And he's fooled you by putting you right in the middle of things, not with the forcefulness of an outsider, but more with the the grace of a friend. The photie man, as he is known. The one who takes the time to write down a name and an address. To send a print of an image to those he has photographed. As a way of saying thank you.
But of course, that's just part of the story in the people you will meet here, your new/old friends, by way of Mr. Wood.
Introduction talk by Tyler Whisnand, Foam Museum Amsterdam, 2005
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