Above and below: photos from mid-1980s Sheffield

Once, I picked up a message from a spirit – one that stalked the concrete highways and byways of Sheffield, the same places I photographed in 1987 and 1988. Now you can see the photos and read the spirit’s testament. Just don’t be afraid of the dark…

Sheffield subway, 1988

There are always tunnels; there are always towers to be climbed.

Above ground, or below ground. Because that’s how they thought we should live.

Always burrowing beneath carriageways, or climbing up to these streets in the sky. Climbing where the sun fears to pass, where the milk floats won’t run.

At first, her body is a shadow. But as she emerges from the subway, there’s a grey light that allows me to see her. A layer of see-through plastic Rainmate around her face, a greenhouse for her head; though there’s no rain, no sun. Must be a precaution, or a habit.

She has two nylon bags, wire-handled. Filled at the Co-Op – Brightside & Carbrook. I imagine her purse filled with stamps. Filled with Polos. Rubber bands and buttons. Filled with…

Her booteed feet trot quickly. She doesn’t belong on the ground; she’s nervous. Afraid of my watching, I like to think.

Then I blink, and she’s gone. Wanting to be above, or below. Returning to shadows, and water, and air.

She’s gone, and so too are the tunnels, the towers, the subways and caverns – now in-filled, tipped over, knocked down.

I, a ghost, gob over the phantom edge and look across at the bus station, the underpass, the dirt. I hoist myself up on tip-toe and peer down into the pools of black where the pensioners hide, and I see the face of the city hung from its expressionist skull.

Hollow, like a consumptive whose days are numbered.

Hyde Park flats, Sheffield, 1987

Sheffield subway, 1987

Sheffield cityscape from Park Hill flats, 1987

Sheffield subway, 1987

Sheffield Pond Street bus station, 1987

Flat Street steps, Sheffield, 1988

Sheffield subway, 1987

Flat Street steps, Sheffield, 1988

Hyde Park flats from Park Square roundabout, Sheffield, 1987

Flat Street steps, Sheffield, 1988

Sheffield subway, 1988

Text © Damon Fairclough 2008
Images © Damon Fairclough 1987, 1988

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