Everywhere, Anywhere, Nowhere
Introduction by Benjamin Smith
“All urbanisation, pushed beyond a certain point, automatically becomes suburbanisation… Every great city is just a collection of suburbs” (Aldous Huxley)
The retired man watering his personal oasis of neat lawn and herbaceous border, the 4x4 parked up by the garage-extension and the almost car-free, unpopulated streets, perfect for the stabiliser-clad bicycles of 2.4 children. This series by Hannah Reynolds crystallises the simultaneous childhood idyll, teenage purgatory and adult entropy that is ‘the suburbs’, into a cohesive narrative that goes beyond documentation, creating a deeply evocative and holistic sense of place. Or should that be a sense of ‘any place’?
The island like copses, half-heartedly maintained playing fields and cheap, plastic patio furniture of my youth are all here, but slightly different. The photographs could have been taken in places that I occasionally visited once-upon-a-time and I would never know. For anyone who grew up in such an area, these images of the outer-most reaches of a nameless northern city must surely form a psychic conduit, back to their own green/beige corner of middle England. For me, they are the closest visual equivalent to a hit of olfaction-induced memory; one whiff of a scent on the breeze and BANG! You can almost hear the whisper of lace curtains twitching.
Yet, small signs of degradation are everywhere in conurbations built for the baby boomers, nearly three generations ago. In the minutiae of the details that Reynolds chooses wryly to include, we see the patched up fences, no longer quite straight, the lawns no longer moss free and the tall, coniferous hedges (for privacy of course) no longer thoroughly manicured. Combined with the constant threat of the encroaching city, swallowing up suburban bubbles everywhere and subsuming them into the urban sprawl, it seems sure that the character of such places will change dramatically in the coming decades. Here though, they are immortalised in their autumn years, captured with a keen eye in their state of flux.
It is however, the frame of the tree lined, foot-worn track, opening out onto a greenbelt meadow (the one in which you played as a child, returning later to self-consciously experiment with all the chemical and physical temptations of adolescence) that sums up the work’s greatest triumph. Everywhere, Anywhere, Nowhere, in capturing such a perfect banality, is at its core a blank canvas onto which the knowing viewer can project his or her own memory.