Birmingham: the photogenic city

11 11 2007

Yes that’s right, Birmingham (UK) is a photogenic city. Maybe you would think of Paris, New York, Sydney (or in my case Varanasi, Granada or St Petersburg) but Birmingham is just as interesting. Here, let me show you:

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I suspect that it may take slightly more evidence than just these few photographs to convince some people as Birmingham does not always have the most positive of reputations, being seen as grim, unfriendly and with nothing to do. Well this was true twenty odd years ago – when Elizabeth worked there for a time – but since then the regeneration has transformed it into a vibrant city with a thriving arts scene. The response of the French couple we met in a B&B in Hay-on-Wye to our tentative enquiries about they liked Birmingham sums up the new atmosphere: “it was wonderful, so friendly… and the shopping was great!”

Main hall, Millennium Point, Birmingham

Possibly a more reliable justification than the views of random French tourist can be found within the Birmingham Flickr Group. This is an open group, with the only restriction being the maximum number of photographs that can be posted in a day, but it still manages to consistently have a large number of both beautiful and fascinating pictures. It’s almost as if the 700+ members are deliberately trying to make it a showcase for the city (something which is sadly lacking in other local groups which often consist of out-of-focus snapshots of a dog in the local park).

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The Birmingham Flickr group is closely connected with various sections of the local arts community and was, for example, given passes to Artsfest (the results of which can be seen here) and one of those administering the group is local blogger extraordinaire Pete Ashton

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There are many fine photographers in the group but two of my favourites are Suselstahl, for her amazing street photography, and kate&drew who manages depict the heart of the city through its everyday details.

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So ignore what you may have heard about Birmingham: come and see it for yourself.

— words & pictures by Paul




6 responses

11 11 2007

Love these photos. You’re absolutely right, Birmingham is a great place to visit and has been developing in leaps and bounds, especially the archtecture. Nearby Coventry, which deserved its reputation as a concrete monstrosity, is also improving – it’s an entirely different city to the one we settled in 18 years ago.

11 11 2007
Inversion Layer

Thanks Mitch! And agree about Coventry… expect to see something about Coventry’s regeneration in a future post.

11 11 2007
Pete Ashton

Thanks Paul. I’m pretty proud of what we’ve managed to do with the group (and it’s a big “we”) so reading this made me very happy!

13 11 2007

I was very impressed with Birmingham when I came up a few years ago. I was particularly taken by the Bullring shopping centre which had the feel of being outdoors, whilst actually being glassed in.

However, I do have worries that regeneration might go to far. Mitch says that Coventry has improved over recent years. Croydon is often seen as blight in need of improvement – to such a degree that the Guardian’s page 3 story today was entirely devoted to “The hanging gardens of Croydon? Plan to turn ‘concrete hell’ into a new Barcelona”.

I have also seen Croydon described as the most perfect 1960s/1970s cityscape in the UK. My worry is that regeneration will wreck the purity of the 1960s architecture. It may not yet be appealing; but I think it’s day will come. A number of the original office blocks in Croydon have been re-faced recently. I am sure that within the next 20 years or so that the buildings of that period will start to have a wider appreciation, and people will mourn the lost of Croydon.

13 11 2007
Inversion Layer

Not sure anyone is very supportive of Coventry’s post-war concrete but your thoughts are especially appropriate given this news about further development in the City.

15 01 2008
Andy Fell

The Midlands as a whole has had a bad press and the reputation of the Midlands as the workshop of the world can not have helped. Birmingham is now a vibrant city and has an awful lot to recommend it as a walk will show, we have nice cafes and restaurants, great art displays and wonderful Theatres. Coventry too has had a bad press but is getting better and if the proposed refurbishment takes place will only get better. So let us celebrate where we live!!! This area is brill!

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