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Nick Barkworth: liminal photography of Blackpool

Muted colours and shapes portray Blackpool in an exotic light in Nick Barkworth’s beautiful photography.

Nick Barkworth’s photographs, showcased regularly on his Instagram, almost always feature Blackpool shots at golden hour. Sunsets against buildings, milky images of back streets, ethereal shapes of guesthouses, and the interiors of empty cafes – his images tell a story. His use of shape and light captures Blackpool in an almost dreamlike way. They are hopeful and sit in contrast to the familiar images of visitors, brassy illuminated fronts, hen and stag parties. His images demonstrate a sensitivity to a place he lives and grew up in.

Barkworth’s has a day job in the care profession but has photographed extensively over the years. At first capturing images of his children, creating that lost art of the domestic photo album, but then found himself drawn to photographers such as William Eggleston who was widely credited for making colour photography a legitimate art form. and the ever-popular Martin Parr. It was then he began to think about how to document the ordinary.

Born in Fleetwood, Barkworth’s interest in digital photography coincided with Flicker’s early ’00s popularity and the birth of social media, where he found other photographers that inspire him such as Stephen Shore, whose work explores semiotics, social documentary, and self-portraiture.

Barkworth chatted about his love of films such as The Last Picture Show which explores coming of age in a small northern Texas town and was celebrated for its cultural and historical aesthetic significance. Barkworth draws similarities in the visuals of the film to his own photography.

“Blackpool feels like it has a similar juxtaposition of angles in a big open space. But I purposefully stay away from shooting people and it’s really by accident if someone comes into the frame.” He adds that he strives to remain respectful and photograph sensitively – he doesn’t gravitate towards highlighting Blackpool’ troubles.

Barkworth’s beautiful work was noticed by an Australian publisher, Photobooksnow. This year he publishes Behind The Smiles – made up of his images of Blackpool.

“It shows the space between the part of Blackpool that is well trodden by tourists but sits before you get to true suburban Blackpool. Behind the hotels – behind the smiles.”

In his day job, Barkworth’s work involves addressing health inequalities across many parts of Lancashire including Blackpool. He mentions how important it is avoid the stereotypes when photographing the town. He advocates for social prescribing – connecting people to activities, groups, and services in their community to meet the practical, social and emotional needs that affect their health and wellbeing. Perhaps photography can provide opportunities for social interaction, improving wellbeing and promoting community collaboration.

What does photography mean to him?

“That is a hard question and I began by writing down all the words that popped into my head prompted by this question: personal; freedom; sharing; self expression; art; reporting; the world around me; capture; time standing still.”

Finally he settles on: “Freedom and self-expression by capturing and sharing the world around me.”

With 16.7k followers on his Instagram, Barkworth’s success inspires photographers locally and further afield, but he is very humble. His obsession with documenting the “space in between” gives his images a liminal feel – as though this is Blackpool on the cusp of a new phase. He cements this idea with his playful use of AI in his social media images, raising question of what might and might not be.

Find out more about Nick Barkworth here https://linktr.ee/nickbarkworth. Follow him on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/nickbarkworth/. Keep your eyes peeled and register for his new publication https://www.photobooksnow.com.au/monographs. And come back to Blackpool Social Club soon for more of Barkworth’s work.

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