"...In 1975 I was a young 13 year old and remember you coming to our street, Mozart St in Liverpool 8... You came out with the kids and parents on our street outings... I also remember you taking photos of my friends and me in our 'den'... If you are the same Paul as I remember I would love you to contact me because I would love to see some of the photo's if they still exist. Yours hopefully, Ian Boland."
The photos did indeed exist. Paul had spent six months in Liverpool in taking photographs for a project documenting inner city deprivation. He had thousands of photographs of Toxteth and Everton, very few of which had ever been shown publicly.
This captivating exhibition at the Walker Gallery in Liverpool documents both the photographic record of that period, and Paul's experience of returning to Liverpool to find some of the people he met and photographed nearly 40 years ago.
I loved the exhibition. And people clearly loved and trusted Paul. As he said in the film which is a central part of the exhibition, it would be impossible today to take these pictures of children playing. But in the 70's there was no such limitation, and as a result, two very different cultures came together, either side of the camera, and got to know each other. And they clearly still felt connected. One woman said "It's like you've never been away, Paul.", giving the exhibition its title.
The poverty shown in the photographs is quite shocking, the dirt, the clothes full of holes, the dangerous play of the children, leaning over the balcony of a tower block, setting a fire in an empty house. But others show great joy and community cohesion. Paul also discovered some sad stories on his visit back to Liverpool, the boy looking through the frame who died young of a drug overdose, the breakup of communities for 'redevelopment'.
I hope that the project which began in 1975 and was revived by that 2008 e-mail will continue, and that Paul will take more remarkable pictures of this now dispersed community.
All photographs copyright Paul Trevor