Bradford born John Myers started taking photographs in 1972 and continued for the next sixteen years or so. His portraits were the ordinary, often under-appreciated residents of Stourbridge the West Midlands town where he lived and taught in the local art college. These unsettling and understated photographs – ‘Middle England’ personified – were all mainly taken within walking distance of the photographer’s house on his-fashioned old 5 x 4 Gandolfi plate camera. His subjects were normal people in their normal homes nearly all staring unsmiling at the camera.
The normality of these black and white portraits have changed, however, and are now infused with social and historical clues rooting them in the 1970s – the houseplants, the capes and the corduroy, sofas and soft-furnishings, and the prevalence of domestic smoking. Myers was driven by his admiration for the work of August Sander, Diane Arbus, Eugene Atget and Walker Evans – these influences are evident in his deadpan environmental portraits.
A selection of these photographs were first published in 1974 in the Arts Council funded book Middle England but it is only recently that his work has received renewed critical attention. Since exhibiting at IKON Gallery in Birmingham in 2012, Myers’ work has been the subject of numerous exhibitions and books. His work is included in notable survey collections such as The Photography Book (Phaidon Press, 2014) and is held in the collections of the Library of Birmingham, the Arts Council Collection, and the James Hyman Collection amongst others. Although he is best known for his photography, he is also an accomplished painter and was senior lecturer in fine art at Stourbridge College of Art from 1969 to 1989 and senior lecturer in painting, and head of the MA in painting, at the University of Wolverhampton from 1989 to 2001.
The extraordinary photographs in this post are just some of those featured in The Portraits by British photographer John Myers. Taken in the living rooms, workplaces and backyards of the suburban town of Stourbridge between 1972-1979. Including many previously unpublished photographs, this new book will be the first complete collection of Myer’s portraiture.
John Myers – The Portraits RRB Photobooks, 21 April 2018