Tidy Street photo project, 2006

Tidy Street was turned into a large-scale public gallery for the duration of the Brighton Photo Fringe Festival, 6-22 October 2006.

Photographic artist Lisa Creagh collaborated with the residents of the street using snapshots from their personal photo albums, which were exhibited in their house windows. Each image was transformed into a window-sized light box and was illuminated from 6 - 10 pm for the two weeks of the festival.

Lisa said that she wanted to connect the residents of the street through their everyday experiences and the medium of the 'snapshot' photograph fitted this goal perfectly. She also wanted to bring photography to a larger audience than the traditional gallery setting can reach.

The project received a lot of media attention. Participating Tidy Street residents were interviewed for radio, television and local newspapers and were photographed and filmed next to their enlarged photographs. They all had a celebratory party to launch the display, which was hosted by Rock Ola Café at the end of the street.

Lisa explained: "I was given photographs from the beginning of the last century to ones taken recently and all shared a common theme of personal, ordinary experience - photos of dads and their daughters on the beach, kids larking about on the sofa at home, all taken at different times in the last hundred years, but all surprisingly familiar to the viewer.

This was very much a celebration of normal life and of living history. I wanted to avoid the gallery setting to show this work. It was an exhibition created by the street, so it was fitting to exhibit it in the street. I wanted the public to be able to enjoy this exhibition at their leisure as they went about their everyday lives.

The Tidy Street project was an opportunity to get close to people. In each household I tried to assist in looking for images that could represent the people who live there. In this role I was able to get a perspective on photography and the purpose it serves in our lives, stimulating memory.

I hoped that the illuminated windows in the street would produce random collisions of meaning, where worlds and times were able to crash into each other producing a nonsensical kind of visual melody. This, coupled with the enticing invitation to stop and stare, was designed to create in the viewer a sense of the warmth and safety of the home as a place where the past coexists with the future.

By working with a random cross-section of the community of people chosen from one street I freed myself from the responsibility of attempting to portray the residents myself. My decision to allow the residents to use their own images was inspired by the posters all over New York for missing people after September 11th. By sharing photographs we open ourselves to the possibility of finding parallels rather than differences. This mirroring effect, the recognition of ourselves in others, is essential in the journey towards peace and away from conflict."

In order to give the project a longer life now that the photographs have long since been taken down from the Tidy Street windows, here are some of the photos you may have seen in the street (or missed), together with some comments from the residents who chose them.

[Previously published in the 'North Laine Runner', No 183, Nov/Dec 2006]