Work in Progress : Portfolio Building

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 3, Surfaces and Strategies, Week 8

Methodology : Pause    Defining : The moment of discontinuity : The state of in-between.     Acting : To dwell in the moment and capture the interstitial state.

In pursuing my working methodology ‘pause’ I managed to negotiate my way with the West Midlands Police to gain access to the Steakhouse Lane Police cells.  The announcement of closure was made a while ago and within the last few months the last detainee was held in the spaces.  The building is Grade 2 listed and as such it is protected (depending on its exact listing citation) from substantial change.  Thus the pause state may persist for sometime until a new use is found for the overall structure that dates from 1892.

I show here the group of images made during the exclusive access I obtained in July 2017 for circa 3 hours.  My normal mode is to seek out the human trace – the signs and scars of ‘life’, the human intervention and marks.  There were very few in this case.  I suspect this is due to the fact that the wassail in the class and common areas were coated thickly with paint, one can assume to prevent the detainees’ scars on the fabric from lingering.  I was struck by the blue vinyl that was everywhere on the soft elements, such as the thin bed matting and pillows.  A singular counterpoint was the ominous bright red suicide prevention pack.

I am developing the technique of shooting perpendicular to subjects where possible, this making ‘flat’ images with occasional depth, such as a view to spaces beyond.

I sense that the solitary, harsh and chill of spaces devoid of any real comfort.  Lying staring at a small hatch beyond which life is heard but rarely sighted, a stainless steel bowl occupies the corner space, the flush chain handled externally by request.  There are no windows, no connection with the city beyond.  A bleak pause.


Birmingham Evening Mail; Article regarding the cells and the history

Historic Steelhouse Lane Police Station - where Fred West was held - closes down

The move ends a 125-year link with cops in city


15 JAN 2017 UPDATED13:35, 16 JAN 2017

The landmark Birmingham police station which held mass murderer Fred West has closed down – ending a 125-year association with the city’s force.

West was caged in the custody block at Steelhouse Lane in the city centre .

The site also housed members of the infamous Peaky Blinders gang who inspired the smash-hit BBC drama of the same name.

The Grade II-listed custody block, which dated from 1892, closed down last year.

And now the police station, built on the same site and opened in 1933, has also bitten the dust in a cost cutting drive.

It has been replaced by a new station inside West Midlands Police’s Lloyd House headquarters in nearby Colmore Circus.

And new custody blocks have been opened in Perry Barr and Oldbury.

The decision to close Steelhouse Lane, along with stations in Edgbaston and Aston, was announced in March, 2013.

Then police and crime commissioner Bob Jones said the changes would mean “substantial” savings in the longer-term.

Chief Supt Chris Johnson, of West Midlands Police , said: “As much as we all love the site on Steelhouse Lane, it’s almost 100-years-old and struggling to cope with the demands of modern policing.

“The age of the building means it’s expensive to run, there’s lots of repairs, there is no level access for wheelchair users or people with prams, the public space is incredibly small with nowhere to expand into – the list goes on.“This is all about providing the best service possible to people.

“While we are all quite sentimental about the place, as a building it doesn’t provide value for money or the facilities modern police teams need, nor the public deserve.” Current commissioner David Jamieson said: “The officers and staff who have worked out of Steelhouse Lane over the years have given great service to the people of Birmingham and the West Midlands.  “I pay tribute to them.”  Serial killer West was held at Steelhouse Lane before he was moved to Birmingham Prison, charged with 12 murders.  He was found hanged in his cell on New Year’s Day, 1995, before he could face trial.