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Visualising inequality: photography as a call to action

Can photography be a call to action?Image of shopfront

This was the question posed in 2011 by visual artist Colin McPherson, when he founded LOOK 11 (the Liverpool International Photography Festival) and chose social justice as the theme.

Now, two years later, he offers an answer in the form of a new exhibition which depicts the damaging impact of Britain's ever-growing income gap.

The A41 Project: Visualising Inequality, which opens this week at The Public art gallery in West Bromwich, features a series of photographs taken by Colin McPherson as he travelled along the A41 trunk road from London to Birkenhead, passing through some of the wealthiest and most deprived areas of England.

“I think that inequality is one of the most important social and political phenomenons of our time,” said Colin “and working on this project in tandem with The Equality Trust allowed me to explore the issue through my photography. The images I created are 'social landscapes,' photographs which simultaneously try to show the effects of our actions while questioning why inequality exists.”

Working alongside Colin on this project have been groups of local people living near the A41 in the West Midlands, Merseyside, Milton Keynes and London. Over the past few months, they have taken their own photographs in their local areas; these are featured in the exhibition newspaper and in an interactive display at the gallery.

Chris Burgess is one of the photographers in Birmingham.

"When you think about how the income gap undermines trust, health, social cohesion,” he said “you realise that its effects are visible all around us."

Chris is also a member of Equality West Midlands, a group which campaigns locally to reduce the income gap - yet despite his familiarity with the issue, he feels that “working on the project has opened my eyes further to the social harm done by inequality.”

So can photography be a call to action? Professor Kate Pickett, co-founder of The Equality Trust and co-author of The Spirit Level: Why Equality Is Better For Everyone, hopes so.

“We would like the exhibition to provoke debate,” she said, “the evidence that inequality damages society is overwhelming and we hope that the A41 Project will help advance the movement for change.”

The A41 Project will be showing at The Public from 27 February to 6 May 2013 and further exhibitions are planned in Milton Keynes, Birkenhead and London throughout 2013-14. The exhibition is supported by The Equality Trust and funded by the Arts Council England. Find out more at the Equality Trust.


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