Assignment 1: Research

As my assignment is about a local pub I did some research on related projects.

Interestingly, single-establishment exercises like mine were rarer than I expected. I found lots of projects on drinking generally, pub/club culture, the perils of alcohol and the demise of the British pub (which is the context for, but not the subject of, my assignment).

Mass Observation

One early source of inspiration was the Mass Observation project of the 1930s and 1940s, particularly the images taken in ‘Worktown’ (Bolton) which included lots of images of the British at leisure – which in those days meant men at the pub.

‘Worktown’, 1937-38 – Humphrey Spender © Bolton Council

These were mostly of historical interest, a window into the past where the pub was an important part of the community (albeit mostly for the working class male). The traditional British pub stayed largely unchanged, apart from the attire of their customers, for a further four decades or so.

Robert Doisneau

Over the Channel and slightly later (mostly 1950s) Robert Doisneau was capturing a similar subculture, that of the French ‘bistrots’ – which more closely resemble a British pub than the sophisticated dining establishments we call ‘bistros’ today.

Bistrots, 1950s – Robert Doisneau

What I found interesting here is how transferable (maybe universal) the pub culture is, when we tend to think of it as uniquely British.

Peter Dench

Dench’s series Alcohol & England is, as the title suggests, more about our society’s relationship with alcohol than pubs as such, but pubs do appear.

Alcohol & England, 2001-08 – Peter Dench

Some images looked a bit like the kind of thing I was looking for at The Sun, but mostly the pictures focused on the seedy side of drinking.

Maciej Dakowicz

Polish-born Dakowicz brings an outsider’s eye to British urban nightlife with Cardiff After Dark. It happens to be Cardiff but it could be any city centre. It’s actually much more about what happens after the pubs have chucked out and most of the images were captured on the street.

Cardiff After Dark, 2005-10 – Maciej Dakowicz

This set made me realise just how very different the ‘nightlife’ is in a rural market town compared to a city centre. Here we have more like ‘evening-life’ and we’re all tucked up in bed by 11pm…

Ciarán Óg Arnold

Arnold’s award-winning project I went to the worst of bars hoping to get killed. but all I could do was to get drunk again is even more extreme and, for me unrecognisable, than the Dakowicz project. It’s basically all about young men drinking and fighting in a small Irish town.

Seeing this set made me rethink my earlier assumption that small town pub culture was inherently less raucous than city centre – it’s clearly not the case. So maybe its more about the characteristics of the community – and in particular the economic fortunes of the region. This set made me so glad to live where I do…

So I found plenty about alcohol, and about drinkers, but not so much about pubs as establishments. A fellow OCA student who is working on her own project about the refurbishment of a local pub was kind enough to let me see some of her work-in-progress and that probably matched the intention of my assignment most closely out of all of these research subjects, though I’m not able to share sample images here at this point in time.

Sources (accessed 30/03/2016),bistrots.htm (accessed 30/03/2016) (accessed 31/03/2016) (accessed 31/03/2016) (accessed 31/03/2016)



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