Paul Trevor spent six months of 1975 documenting life on Liverpool’s most deprived streets. Laura Davis reports
HE STARTED out as a stranger, an interloper in their midst. A 20-something bearded man camouflaged in the flared trousers and wide collars of the time, his Southern accent and the cameras he carried signalling his foreignness.
More than three decades on, Paul Trevor is welcomed as a prodigal son by the now grown-up grubby-faced children whose images he immortalised in black and white film. A long-lost friend whose first professional photography job is arguably also his most enduring.
“It’s like you’ve never been away,” remarked one of his subjects when he returned to the Everton and Granby areas of Liverpool last summer, in search of the faces in his pictures.
So that became the name of his latest exhibition, a show that encompasses 60 of the hundreds of photographs of children and their families he took over a six-month period, in 1975, opening at the Walker Art Gallery next week.
Run-down streets brought to life by the smiles of the children making them their playground, a pair of threadbare socks barely covering a boy’s feet as he leans like an urban acrobat over the balcony of a high rise flat, a girl running along in her mother’s platform heels.
It’s a collection of images that could not be created today, remarks Trevor, and not just because the haircuts and fashions are so completely of their time. We live in less apparently innocent times – the widespread fear of paedophiles generating an unimagined level of caution.
“To photograph kids today in the way I did is literally impossible,” he says.
“This generation today is the first since photography was invented that is not being photographed in the same way. We live in a very different world and parents don’t feel so safe letting their kids out. Their kids are busy with computer games, there’s a lot of paranoia.”
He would probably have to discuss the project in advance with Police, he says, and request permission from parents.
“Imagine if (the father of photojournalism) Cartier-Bresson had to do what students today are being advised to do and get permission first before you take the picture.
“It’s a great loss to culture but it might be a blip. It might be something we all get over and future generations won’t be so paranoid.”