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Graphic Archeology

John Kelly, editor of this issue of streetgraphic explores the notion of graphic archeology. “For many years I have had a fascination with old signage, complete or fragmented. It first became of interest in the early eighties when I exposed an old Lyons tea sign from the local tip, this held and still does a fascination with past signage and how it signifies a bygone era and evokes a history of time, people and events. I have used photography to document old signage and areas where the signage resides, which in their heyday were thriving communities but are now down at heel, populated with taxi ranks and kebab houses, the signage acts as a metaphor for loss, decay and is a witness to history and society in flux. You do not have to travel far to find a rich source of graphic archeology. In this section I focused on an area of my home town, Longroyd Bridge in Huddersfield. The area became run down in the seventies as the textile and engineering industries fell into decline. The residents of the area drifted to other areas of the town and longroyd bridge became a ghost town with boarded up shops and a few take aways.

Local: The Bridge

In a small area of Longroyd bridge there is a series of derelict shops which were originally built in the 1700’s. They have been empty for about twenty five years but still posses many clues to there last purpose. After photographically documenting the area. I managed to interview a resident of the area, who lived in the area in the 50’s. He remembers the row of shops especially the ‘chippie’ and the hairdressers. The hairdresser was well known for his Friday night, ‘Penny parting’. The area was home to the tram depot, and the penny parting was the locals solutions to keeping your hair in place on a Friday night as the tram swept passed. It consisted of a hand full of ‘Brylcream’ and a parting down the middle of your head. Graphic archeology is not just limited to faded typography on walls. Everyday records of our life’s are erased daily. Quite often the signage is similar to a palimpsest where the original writing and purpose has been effaced to make room for a second purpose.

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Post Office: Leymoor

Martin Harris in his forward to his book on Dorothy Bohm wrote. “The notion of art produced as a kind of palimpsest as a record of mankind’s beliefs, aspirations and ideas, that is created, effaced - erased in time- and recreated in another form, has retained a powerful hold on our imagination ever since ancient manuscripts were recycled in this way. There is an intriguing circularity to this process, which might be expressed as Composition-Decomposition-Recomposition.” In this section we feature the post office at Leymoor, Huddersfield. The post office has closed its doors for the last time to become part of a house extentsion.As the shop sign came down another older one appeared.On closer inspection another one was behind that. Finally both have been painted over. Luckily I documented the shop before both signs were effaced. The skip paid major dividends with some nice advertising finds from the sixties”.

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28silverknowes.com is an interesting site which not only acts as photographic detective story, but also documents one family's travels in the 60’s and 70’s. ‘This story began two years ago when I was on my way to tax the car at the post office in an area of Huddersfield, Yorkshire known as Milnesbridge. Ironic really because cars have become a central theme and without which I would not have been able to complete the journey. There was a large queue at the post office and as I hate queing I decided to tax the car later. Across from the post office a second hand shop had recently opened and I could never resist the temptation of finding a gem in one of those shops and this day it was no exception. Inside was the normal collection of cheap house clearance articles but amongst this was an old leather Gladstone type holdall. This was the gem I had been looking for, I asked the shop owner the price and was pleased when he replied that it was four pounds. I didn’t even haggle at that price because I knew it was worth four times that. I hastily paid the man and put the bag in the car. The bag was not heavy but obviously had something in it. The contents went on to inspire this website’.