by Casey Orr
The Saturday Girl series of portraits was conceived after seeing so many young women in Leeds with ‘big hair’; hair teased and back-combed, styled and extended with hairpieces and wigs. I wondered what it meant, what it said about undercurrents in culture, the unspoken signs that tell of our values and tribe identities and how these things burst forth (whether we intend them to or not) in self-expression.
It’s with these questions in mind that I set off from Leeds to Liverpool yesterday with my mobile photography studio.
My team consists of photographer Luke Holroyd and Leeds Beckett University Graphic Art and Design soon-to-be graduates Jamie Sinclair and Mark West. Between them they have a good selection of the major Northern city accents covered: Leeds, Liverpool and Newcastle. And then there’s me, I’m from Delaware, USA.
As we drive over the Pennines, talking about the imminent hand-in date and how to keep a creative life after Uni, chatting and planning our day, I’m reminded of how this northern landscape shapes and defines the shifts in culture from valley to valley, city to city; the accents, northern lilts, all so particular, so regional. The cultures of the big northern cities, their industrial histories, weather, landscapes, routes of migration and their proximity to water are anchored and planted in their people and become endemic; as much a part of the individual as family and religion.
Is this why Liverpool people are so friendly? Because of the flows of the Mersey bringing foreigners, migration, goods, ideas, differences – and the effects of all of this on culture?
From the moment we stop the car at Liverpool One, Saturday Girl is welcomed into the city. The big burly security guard that approaches us starts off our day by finding us a place to park. Him and his team are equally helpful all day, checking if we have everything we need. This willingness to be approached, this openness to strangers, is such an important factor with this kind of work. We’re spending the day asking people to be photographed, approaching people with our strange requests for hair portraits. We have a great time. And it’s fun, rain or not. I chase a woman in curlers through Primark and drag her back to where we’re set up in the Dome to be photographed (actually she came willingly, and a good thing too, because I was lost!);
a girl celebrating her 14th birthday by being dressed as a cat preens and poses for us, so weird and cute!
We have printed postcards and a special selection of backdrops that I’ve chosen, clay, greys and watery blues and greens; I’m not sure if the colours will work until I start photographing and realize the clay colour has a pink in it that looks so good with all of this pale freckled skin; the blue one setting off bright, playfully-coloured hair.
As the day progresses it becomes clear that there is something different about self-expression in Liverpool (maybe it’s something in the water?) compared to Leeds; that our cities determine us, we carry them in our posture, on our shoulders, and, yes, those differences can be photographed.
Saturday Girl will be back in The Dome, Chavasse Park in Liverpool One on Saturday May 9th and as part of Look 15, Liverpool International Photography Festival on May 24th and 25th.
Come and say hello!
All images by Casey Orr © Casey Orr 2015