I have been taking part in the Birmingham Photographic Grid Project 2017. This year the theme is In the Footsteps of Phyllis Nicklin. Phyllis needs no introduction you folks, we know and love her for the amazing archive of photographs she left us.
Phyllis Nicklin was a lecturer at the University of Birmingham who died in November 1969 while still in office. She left a collection of photographs taken in the 50’s and 60’s showing social housing and working places in Birmingham.
Phyllis Nicklin was a mysterious person, very little was known about her personal life. Members of the Birmingham History forum have long appreciated the valuable legacy of social change she left us and are now campaigning to have a blue plaque erected at the place of her birth.
She left a remarkable legacy in her photographic collection that recorded the social housing and working conditions of everyday people. While she was employed by the university, her photographic collection has become a direct benefit not only to the student who were taught by Phyllis, but to the community as a whole.
Her collection has engaged a whole community in a way that has increased our knowledge, and given us a new insight into the past lives, and the living and working conditions of older generations. The collection of images has made history accessible to everyone and therefore the benefits her short and almost invisible life have bought are in my opinion are immeasurable and priceless.
The aim of this yeas Grid Project is to retake all of her photos in and around Birmingham, so that we can see the changes made of the passing years. Details of the project, and her photos can be seem on Dave Allen’s website here.
There will also be an exhibition and a short run hardback book once the project is completed at the end of this year. I understand that 2018 would have been the year of her 100th birthday.
It was fascinating waking in the footsteps of Phyllis today, having to look closely at the landscape and study it closely to work out just where she stood all those years ago. Today I felt like I was engaging with a long dead person from the past, and am now able to see the world though the mind of someone who walked before me.
It is quite sad that we know very little about the life of Phyllis, as her images tell a remarkable story about the town I love. Maybe that’s just how she wanted it to be, life is not always about doing alright for your self, its about doing alright for others.
I would like to share with you the then and new images from the four locations I have chosen to take.
Phyllis Nicklin images courtesy of University of Birmingham
Today, standing in the footsteps of Phyllis does not give us such a clear view of Tyseley Hall, so moving about 15 feet to the right allows us to see the hall in all its glory.