The Long Lens blog: Photography with added snaps, art and culture

The photography site for sore eyes. Featuring: Art, photography, performance and theatre. With extra writing because I'm also a writer.

Photography exhibition: Tim Foster – All Roads Lead to Wigan Pier (at Turnpike, Leigh Library)


Photography exhibition:
Tim Foster
All Roads Lead to Wigan Pier
Turnpike, Leigh Library



Documentary photography is technically difficult. But while logistics, organisation, composition and aesthetics are the sole and all-consuming work of the photographer, the viewer is only interested in results.

All too rarely documentary photography exhibitions – particularly commissioned pieces – fail to deliver. I’ve seen some crap recently.

So how good is it when you turn up to the 1970s concrete catastrophe that is Leigh Library and find a photography exhibition so good you want to crowbar the images off the wall and take them home?

Obviously I’m not supposed to say that.

Tim Foster’s All Roads Lead to Wigan Pier has the lot. Depth, variety, sensitivity, consideration.

From a photographer’s perspective, you can see the effort the photographer has put in to finding subjects, gaining access, winning over people’s trust, not to mention the time spent documenting those other curious instances of life which you don’t find unless to endlessly walk the streets, camera in hand.

From a viewer’s point of view, what you get from this exhibition is an instantly likeable set of images which encapsulate a town, simultaneously reinforcing and challenging the strong preconceptions which hang over the borough.

This is when photography as an art form works best. Images which are easily understood and enjoyed by an audience. This exhibition will encourage anyone who sees it to seek out more photography work.


All Roads… marks 80 years since the publication of the George Orwell book The Road To Wigan Pier. Photographer Foster, brought up in nearby Appley Bridge, brings a Humphrey Spender-esque style to this anthropological survey – but with glorious colour and a sensitivity which Spender himself lacked.

Great photography exhibitions are few and far between. That you have to come to such a nondescript town as Leigh, which culturally lives in the shadow of Wigan, never mind nearby Manchester and Liverpool with all their art and photographic heritage, is an irony which should be embraced.

I counted 66 images in the exhibition (my only moan is that two of them are of the same person, Mary). You should go and see them all.

All Roads Lead to Wigan Pier is at the Turnpike, Leigh Library until November 11, 2017.




2 comments on “Photography exhibition: Tim Foster – All Roads Lead to Wigan Pier (at Turnpike, Leigh Library)

  1. Tim
    October 12, 2017

    Mate, thanks for writing this. It took a year and half to get all those images and I was still photographing 2 weeks before print. It’s always good to hear a photographers review especially on a rainy day in a concrete building. Positive and negative comments are always welcome, yeah Mary, an amazing person and story to tell, where do you start, the problem was also where do you end? Best regards and keep shooting, Tim

    • Garry Cook
      October 12, 2017

      I could have written a seperate article on Mary. She’s the one you want to know more about. Thanks for your kind words about my article. It was such a brilliant exhibition to go and see.

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