Connect>Create 2008

A personal response to the work of Seamus Nicolson

In the photograph ‘Bobbyann’ a young local girl is captured dressed in garish over the top clothing, ready to go to a ‘Ragga’ night with friends. This is a common sight in this part of Harlesden on a weekend. In the image she waits for friends outside a brightly lit furniture shop with an ornate bed on display and a ’for sale’ sign hanging above her in the window. I could imagine someone with lots of money but no taste buying from this shop. Because of the composition and strong use of lighting, Nicolson challenges the viewers’ assumptions about the girl and her lifestyle. Is it just the furniture on ‘Sale’?


In the photograph ‘Wajid’, Nicolson has captured a shop worker as he stands in the doorway of a convenience store, waiting for customers and guarding his empire. In this image you see an outside world and an inside world. A window into Wajid’s world, and his everyday life. He was attracted to the shop because of the colourful displays and the luminous fluorescent lighting inside. The artist achieves an even more saturated look by using long exposures to pump up the colour. He also talks about how the colour of Wajid’s top picks up on other colours in the composition. For Nicolson all the elements of the image are just as important.


The characters in Nicolson’s work have a bold and impassive quality, which makes them rise above their everyday urban locations. The images are successful in provoking the viewer into questioning what came before and after it was taken. They are very slick, and there is a stillness about the images that brings into question how ‘staged’ the scenarios actually are. You do begin to wonder, where the passers by and the discarded food and litter have gone. After all it is London, a twenty-four hour global city.


In actual fact Nicolson did have to “stop and start, stop and start”, whilst taking the photograph of Wajid, and brought along a local artist friend who is well known in the neighbourhood - Faisal Abdu-Allah, for help with crowd control. “Bobbyann was attracting a lot of attention, so it was actually a very hectic situation that does not show up in the images at all”.

By Debbie Keable, student from the BA (hons) Contemporary Fine Art Course, Hull School of Art and Design 2009

All information has been gathered from the following sources:

Recorded interview with Seamus Nicolson. Kiosk - Ferens Art Gallery


Recorded interview with Seamus Nicolson 16.03.2004 (interview led by Kirsten Simister, Keeper of Art, Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston upon Hull) 'Illuminations' DVD.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Ferens Art Gallery, Hull | 
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