I guess there are two phases to my career as a photographer: The first phase was as an educator, teaching part time at several colleges in the north-west, ending up as a full-time programme manager at Hugh Baird college in Bootle. During this phase I worked on several projects and in roughly chronological order (although some did overlap) they were:
“Pleasureland”: photographs of Southport fair out of season shot on 5x4 in black and white.
“Housing Estates”: photographs divided into four discrete sets that showed an evolution of approach to the same subject. Set1: 35mm graphic, contrasty black and white images. Set2: 35mm grey and understated black and white. Set3: 5x4 black and white and Set4: 5x4 colour.
“Demolition Sites”: 5x4 black and white photographs of areas of ground either where buildings were being demolished or where buildings had been demolished some time in the past.
“Skelmersdale”: 5x4 black and white photographs of the people and environs of Skelmersdale built as a satellite new town, twenty miles from Liverpool. The now defunct Merseyside Arts employed me as a photographer in residence and I worked there for one day a week for twelve weeks. (I continued with the project after the funding finished.)
“The Plight of the Trolley”: medium format ,semi-humorous colour photographs of abandoned shopping trolleys.
“Personal Space”: 35mm black and white photographs showing the quirky nature of modern family life.
“River to River” colour 5x4 photographs of the coastline from the River Ribble to the River Mersey
The above work was variously exhibited and published at The Open Eye Gallery, Impressions York, The Bluecoat, Liverpool, The Atkinson, Southport, North-West photography Group shows, British Journal of Photography, Creative Camera.
The second phase began in 1997 when Stephanie Wynne and myself formed the collaborative partnership: McCoy Wynne. We built up a successful commercial practice and were able to leave teaching in 2005, concentrating on commissioned work but also collaborating on personal projects, a selection of which are listed below. This second phase coincided with the increased use of digital techniques: another re-invention of photography.
“Quiescence”: a study of dormant spaces was our first large project exhibited in 2008 and this led to McCoy Wynne being shortlisted for The Liverpool Art Prize in 2009 for: “An Avian Presence”
“Bingo and Burial”: was exhibited as part of Liverpool Look 11 photofestival and we re-photographed from the original viewpoints of my demolition site photographs taken in the 1980’s.
“Gulls”: photographs of the flight patterns of birds disturbed at night within the urban environment and exhibited at The University of Liverpool and recently at The University Centre, Blackpool.
“Triangulation”: a long-term project to photograph all 310 triangulation pillars which will also provide a survey of the British landscape, exhibited as part of Liverpool Look 13 photofestival.
A further ongoing project “The Urban Forest” has also been recently exhibited.
The projects listed above, although varied in subject matter, all have a grounding in notions of documentary photography. We do not tend to photograph “events” or feel we take photographs that are “reportage” or “journalistic”. At the risk of sounding pretentious we consider ourselves to be conceptual documentary photographers.
Our concerns are more long term and we like to work on projects over several years. The acceptance of the factual nature of documentary photography is ideally suited to portraying the passage of time and the revival of some of my archival projects by Café Royal Books has highlighted how photographs, which were once contemporary, have become historical documents.
It’s also worth noting that very few of the projects have people as the major subject. We are more interested in environments, landscapes and artefacts. We have never felt entirely comfortable photographing strangers and no matter how careful one is there will always be some elements of exploitation.
Stephen McCoy 2015
Images below are from titles published by Café Royal Books.