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Southport Reporter®

Edition No. 100

Date:- 24 May 2003

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“It’s the story behind the story, of that magic era” Mike McCartney
Report with thanks to Sam Prior 

THE photographic exhibition Mike McCartney’s Liverpool Life, at the Museum of Liverpool Life, 24 May - 28 September 2003 is a celebration of the city in the 1960s. From the towering beak of a Liver Bird, to the sight of visiting legends such as Jerry Lee Lewis caught in candid moments, Mike’s black and white photographs shed a new light on some familiar subjects.

A self-styled ‘working class photographer’, Mike perfected his art through years of practice and experimentation, using books from the local library for inspiration. As he did not have access to a proper darkroom he had to wait until late at night to print his pictures, which he then hung to dry with ladies hairgrips on a string tied across his bedroom. His progress is charted in the self-portraits that he took with his first four cameras, using his reflection in the mirror.
Many of his pictures capture intimate, informal scenes of family life in Mike’s childhood home at 20 Forthlin Road. Mike himself describes the house as “…a fascinating and concentrated volume of energy and memories, some sad, lots happy. Every picture tells far more than just a story.” It was these evocative images that helped persuade the National Trust to take the unprecedented step of buying this ordinary Liverpool terraced house to preserve for the nation.

Just as at home in front of the camera as behind it, Mike found fame as one of the ‘Liver wacker wits’ in Scaffold, a group that started as a humorous satirical act but went on to storm the pop world with the hits Thank U Very Much, Lily the Pink and Liverpool Lou. He has brought the same unique vision and wit to his photographs, which cast an affectionate eye over his home town.

Throughout his extraordinary career Mike has also had unrivalled access to some of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll stars who played at famous local venues such as the Tower Ballroom in New Brighton and Liverpool’s Cavern Club. The flash gun he used when photographing these acts on stage earned him the nickname ‘Flash Harry’ from Brian Epstein. His photographs show every aspect of the rock star lifestyle, from the adrenaline of Little Richard on stage, to a considerably more relaxed Graham Nash, of Crosby, Stills & Nash, snoozing on a train. In addition to other major rock names, including the Shadows, Billy J Kramer, Jeff Beck, the Hollies and, of course, Scaffold, the exhibition features stars from many other walks of life, from Dr Jonathan Miller visiting Liverpool with the famous war photographer Don McCullin, to a 16 year old Lewis Collins of The Professionals.

Following a successful show at the Museum of Alberta, Canada, this exhibition is now coming to Liverpool for the first time before going on to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. To mark this occasion Mike has personally re-written the captions to go with the photographs, with plenty of amusing anecdotes about the people and places featured in them who all mean so much to him. 

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Southport Reporter is a registered Trade Mark.   Copyright © Patrick Trollope 2003.