The Time I was in a gallery


On ‘A Bright Shot!’ I shared a picture I took back in 2011 that was featured in a gallery. As that blog is not really for writing, more sharing photos, I have decided to discuss the tale in more detail on here. 

Back in 2011, I received my very first camera for my 14th birthday. This was due to having an interest in my Grandad’s cameras and my Uncle’s as well. So I got one, and I began to learn from my Grandad and my Uncle about how to take really good images with a camera. I cannot remember the exact day, but during the summertime, I met up with my Grandad in Liverpool with my camera to do some of the stuff we used to do when I was younger. We visited the museums, walked around Liverpool city centre, went around Liverpool One, and took some photos. One of them was this one:

The Heart of Urban Utopia, 2011, by Ben Attwood

It was one of a bunch of photos I took on the day. There wasn’t really a desire to take photos for the sake of taking them but was just to document some of the sites I saw. Later on in the year, I was somehow informed about a competition at the local gallery, near my Grandad’s house. I think my Uncle told me, as he knows someone who worked there. Therefore, I decided to enter one of my photographs. The theme of the exhibition was based on an ‘urban theme’. I decided to enter this photo.

The futuristic look of St John’s Beacon really appealed to me. It still does. My grandad told me it used to be a rotating restaurant. Now it’s just a fancy billboard for Radio City and somewhere to go to the top of for a fee and look at the skyline. I went on top of St John’s Beacon a few years later from then, and while it’s a nice view, you miss a key part of Liverpool’s skyline in my opinion.

And in 2011, 3 years after the capital of culture, the city was still improving. Liverpool wasn’t the nicest city when I was little, but the capital of culture really helped us out a lot. So, in a way, the retro-futuristic look of the late 60’s beacon, and the turning fortunes of Liverpool give this picture a lot of nice context and meaning. Or maybe I’m talking rubbish. My interpretation of the competition was of urban prosperity, of a brighter future. That’s why I called the photo ‘The Heart of Urban Utopia’ as its official title for the competition.

While I didn’t win the competition, my work was featured in the gallery. I was invited to the opening event, and I was sorely let down by it. I invited my Grandad to come, as he was with me when the photo was taken, and without him, I’d never have taken the thing in the first place. While there, I felt a bit like an outlier, and very out of place. There were lots of people my age in suits, tuxedos, and dresses. There was a lot of dignified-looking people there, including the mayor (who I spoke with briefly). I ended up not staying for long, I only came to see my picture, which was hung in the cafe. A fitting place, it was over a table. I approved.

A lot of the photos were quite striking, but for the wrong reasons. I explicitly remember one of a boundary wall outside of an old terrace house with broken glass over it. To me, in retrospect, that felt like a betrayal of the urban theme. When I think urban, I think developed infrastructure and human ingenuity. Urban Decay, however, seemed to be the prevailing theme of these pictures, and I wasn’t a fan. What did make me happy was that I got to take my Grandad to see me being a part of an exhibition. That’s what mattered.

Its 7 years on from that now. Grandad is dead, and the gallery is still up and running. My brother and Uncle go there quite a bit when they’re in town. I’ve been in once or twice since then. I still take photos, but I don’t think I’ve taken a picture as good on any of my cameras as the one I took that summer’s day in 2011. These days, I use my Grandad’s DSLR as my main shooter. Maybe I’ll eventually take a photo as good as that one.


About the author


Since 2012, Benjamin Attwood has written for the If you Ask Ben blog.

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