From sunrise to sunset, on the famous promenade and surrounding alleys in the resort town on the Irish Sea, the Russian-American-Berliner Benita Suchodrev lets life unfold before her camera. Relying on her intuition, during a couple of summer days the photographer documents her encounters with strangers. Her manner is daring and swift, always capturing the “decisive moment”. Like all her documentary and portrait work, the high-contrast black-and-white photographs in “48 Hours Blackpool” are intense and devoid of sensationalism. They reveal only the sparse remains of the former splendor of the seaside resort, which attracted the wealthy British in the early 19th century until it became a magnet for mass tourism. And yet there is a touch of nostalgia to the photos, a longing to revel in beautiful memories even if only for a few hours. “48 Hours Blackpool” is a sociocultural study rich in authenticity and poetry; a contemporary but timeless journey of discovery through bingo parlors, hot dog stands, and burlesque theaters where wacky types, moms and pops, kids and seagulls go to play.
“Through this spontaneous and intuitive way of taking photographs, the people, indeed society as a whole, depicts itself, in a sense – Suchodrev only provides the mirror. And yet, with the Blackpool series, she broadens our view. Benita Suchodrev transforms the street into a stage. She makes something visible that most of us overlook: the face in the crowd. Her observations are both intense and exploratory, visualized encounters with strangers that happen fast, virtually unfiltered… Her pictures – half situational, half portrait – are at the same time individual and typological; every represented subject is a representative of another Blackpool visitor. Seen in its entirety, “48 Hours Blackpool” is a visual metaphor for the British working class, and although it can sometimes be quite dark and pitiless, is portrayed here with benevolence.”
– Excerpt from “Rough Beauty” by Dr. Matthias Harder
“As I set off on my journey to this whimsical hybrid of Coney Island and Las Vegas, where Elvis Presley is still alive and a miniature version of the Eiffel Tower soars above the Irish Sea, I have no expectations and no preconceptions. Blackpool is as anonymous to me as I am to it; a makeshift wonderland where the insatiable craving for wonder far exceeds the wonder itself. On this terra incognita, I sketch a path of meridians and parallels through wandering flocks of young and old caught in consumption frenzy, eager to fit as many thrills as possible into the smallest window of time. Blackpool is after all a weekend getaway; a traditional destination for no-holds barred stag and hen parties and wacky characters. It is also a playground for kids with painted faces wearing candy-colored tops, gangsta hoodies, and fake tattoos, fervidly dragging their moms and pops (and vice versa) in and out, to and fro amusement parks, bingo halls, arcades, and restaurants. “Kids eat free!” A sense of self-perpetuating urgency and appetite pervades the air, accompanied by the frantic cry of seagulls. In this vortex of bread and circuses, mouths and hands are always busy with fish & chips, Blackpool rock candy, and cell phones. Mini dramas and the occasional contemplative moment pop up when least expected. I hold them forever still by the click of the shutter (…) I am not interested in pure documentation or sensation. In this resort town, where crime and poverty rates make it a point of convergence for the cheerful and the destitute, I am not looking for emptiness, distress, or alienation. But to my surprise I seem to find it almost everywhere, in almost everyone I see. And I see this intensity of human gesture and expression more in the day than I do at night, when children are still up and about and their parents are still more or less sober. I discover that the dark side of Blackpool is better revealed in the light of day.”
– Excerpt from “Seagulls and Metaphors” by Benita Suchodrev
The book “48 Hours Blackpool” was released in September 2018 by KEHRER Verlag and includes a foreword by Dr. Matthias Harder, senior curator of the Helmut Newton Foundation.
The debut exhibition “48 Hours Blackpool” in the Willy-Brandt-Haus in Berlin presents the full photographic series including unseen images and a limited Collector’s Edition.
Benita Suchodrev : 48 Hours Blackpool
Saturday 30 March – 12 May 2019