Rose Street, Aberdeen, with Thistle Court in the background: © John Perivolaris
The Cities of Ghosts exhibition ran in the Sir Duncan Rice Library at Aberdeen University in Old Aberdeen until 21st February 2016.
Victorian photographer George Washington Wilson (1823-1893) captured images of Aberdeen and North-East Scotland; parts of England, Wales and Northern Ireland; Gibraltar, Morocco and the South of Spain; and colonial South Africa and Australia. He was a pioneer of street photography, and saw the city as a rush of speed and movement, a place for the living. Street photography would become one of the most important modes of communication in the twentieth century. Two of the medium's well-known practitioners were Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank. Its hallmarks were chance, spontaneity and randomness.
The sounds and images in City of Ghosts capture how different rhythms merge, mesh, echo and conflict with each other. Independent documentary maker and fine-art photographer John Perivolaris has paid homage to Washington Wilson’s work by creating and exhibiting a new suite of fifteen commissioned photographs showing comparable vistas to those taken in Aberdeen over a century ago, resonating with the past - part tradition, part interrogation. John's contemporary images were captured on analogue cameras and processed with master printer David Champion using silver bromide techniques and materials. Set against a selection of reproductions from Wilson’s glass plate negatives and a soundscape created by Professor Pete Stollery, Chair of Music at Aberdeen University, the exhibition establishes a dialogue between the city past and present.
Marischal College in early 20th century. Image from George Washington Wilson & Co. glass plate in the University of Aberdeen's Special Collections Centre. (MS 3792 A0316).
Conversations raised by City of Ghosts include the role of photography in representing cities, our perception of city life and the dialogue between vision and sound. Stillness, slowness and observation serve as the foundations for Perivolaris's photos: he carefully scouts locations and pays attention to the built forms of the city and how they combine to create urban environments. His deliberate slowing of pace contrasts to our sense of the accelerated nature of city life, a phenomenon felt particularly with the rapid modernisation of the industrial age.