Charles Harbutt - The Face of the City

Recently, I've been scanning black and white negatives taken during my student days at Portsmouth. And looking through pictures taken nearly 30 years ago, many of which were never printed or shown at the time, I'm struck by how accurately the photographs reflect the city as it then was.

Portsmouth, was (and still is) home to a large naval base, and so was very heavily bombed by Germany during the Second World War. As a consequence of this brutal bombing campaign, the city when I was living there, still bore some physical scars nearly 40 years later.
As an example, at the back of the flat in Buckland I shared briefly with the painter Steve Nesbitt, shallow bomb craters were still clearly visible.

By the time I lived there (1982-1985) the city had been largely rebuilt. But most of the building projects, especially those completed during the 1960's and 1970's had created a legacy of ugly and undistinguished buildings including the infamous (but now demolished) Tricorn Centre.

What strikes me over a quarter of a century later, after looking at my Portsmouth photographs, are similarities in mood with images taken by the photographer Charles Harbutt.

Harbutts images, the city images in particular, evoke a very cool quite abstract relationship between man and landscape. I'll post my own pictures here soon as a comparison.

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