In October 1839, just months after the public announcement of the invention of photography, a Frenchman named Ste Croix made and displayed a ‘striking view of the whole of the extent of New Street, Christ Church, the hackney coaches and even the scaffold before Warwick House’. This view of one of Birmingham’s main streets was amongst the earliest photographs made in the city.
From left to right:
Unknown Photographer, Colmore Row, 1906
Unknown Photographer, St Phillip's Churchyard, 1905
Unknown Photographer, St Phillip's Churchyard, 1949
Thomas Lewis, Colmore Row, c1895
Photos: Birmingham Library and Archive Services.
These historical images, all made within the boundaries of the Colmore Business District, reveal the ways in which amateur and professional photographers have been making journalistic, documentary and art images on Birmingham’s streets ever since that historic day.
Birmingham Central Library’s Photography Collections include a wealth of images made on the streets and in the public spaces of the city. These images, along with the Library’s other internationally significant photography collections, will be available in the new Library of Birmingham which opens in 2013.
Inspired by the work of the Magnum photographers, the Colmore Business District have commissioned staff, students and graduates from Birmingham City University to create a series of new pictures in the area. In addition to documenting everyday life in the district, their photographs will reveal the creative ways in which the Birmingham City Centre Partnership, the Big City Plan and the private sector are working together to reinvigorate Birmingham's streetscapes. This project will culminate in the production of a book and a small touring exhibition of photographs which enable us to appreciate the dynamic hub of the city as an exciting collage of constantly shifting, insight and surprising juxtaposition. The photographs will finally be added to the Library’s Collections, adding an important new chapter to the history of street photography in Birmingham.