David Walker – Birds Don’t Sing in The Dark

I posted last month, David Walker’s Spectators series in conjunction with the release of his book of the same name. People watching, and people-watching are the core of the series which was shot between 1983-84. The Spectators so engrossed in their sport that David went unnoticed.
David’s work differs from most of what I publish. He comes from an art direction background, creating work on brief, using the appropriate method for the job. This is something I always encourage students to do, when for example, making artist’s books. The form should be determined by the content. Can the form of the book lend itself to the way the reader perceives or uses the book?

Whereas most would tackle a project with a fairly consistent aesthetic style, David tackles each project very differently, as shown  here in two projects shot during the same period. From Kev to Bev (1985-86), and Birds Don’t Sing in the Dark (1983-87)

Continuing from his Spectators project, David added:

What followed was a commission from Rod Taylor at Wigan Metro to photograph the people of Leigh. I decided to create a life size mural around the large gallery walls at the Turnpike with the characters I chose peaking out from the background at various intervals. ‘From Kev to Bev’ was based on a young married couple I found in Leigh.

The work was shown in an Arts Programme ‘Celebration’ by the BBC. Twelve of the images from that show were used some years later in a 1997 Calendar by the prestigious The Chase in Manchester titled ‘THERES NOWT SO QUEER AS FOLK’.

They won two D&AD Awards, one for photography and one for Design. It also won the Calendar of the year in Creative Review.

I was very precious about whether this work was being shown as it was originally intended so I decided audaciously therefore to turn down The Photographers Gallery who wanted to show the portraits framed individually.

Whilst working on that show I was conscious that I was not revealing my true character in my work so I began photographing images which reflected the mood I felt whilst living in a Thatcherite Britain, a dark brooding colourless country without much light at the end of a very long dark tunnel.

During that period I went to a gig and one of the acts was an Irish singer songwriter, Paul O’Reilly, and a lyric in one of the songs was ‘birds don’t sing in the dark’. I couldn’t believe it because one of the images I took in the new series was of a bird’s nest in a butchered bush, I asked him therefore if I could use it as a title to my project. He agreed

‘Birds’ was also a change in direction for me, I decided right there that from now on there would be no more people in my photographs.

All images © David Walker.

Author: craigatkinsonstudio

UK based photographer, publisher (Café Royal Books), lecturer (UCLan), visiting lecturer (lots), and dad (x2). Generally concerned with street photography and places, usually Brutalist. Founded Café Royal Books in 2005. Publishes weekly titles focusing broadly on aspects of change, usually social documentary, in the UK, and between 1970 — 2000. Work collected by MoMA, Tate, V&A and many other international public, private and educational libraries, galleries and museums.

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