In 1990, as a student photographer, Lion Farm Estate chose me. On a chance visit, the sheer scale of the tower blocks and their bleak setting grabbed my attention – aesthetically and emotionally. I was looking for an estate that I could photograph that would convey my experience of the ordinariness of daily working class life but, equally, I was fascinated by topography and post-war architecture. The estate was both familiar, in the sense I grew up in a large low-rise council estate in the Midlands, and exciting, as it was unfamiliar, new to me, strange and offered much to explore. When commissioned by Multistory to photograph the area a generation later, I was determined to document again, in a balanced, inquisitive, and respectful manner, a visual representation of the under-represented.
In 1991, Robert Clayton completed his social documentary project on the Lion Farm Estate in Oldbury under the guidance of photographer Nick Hedges at Wolverhampton University. Years later, in 2015, the original work was published in a book (Estate) and Robert was subsequently commissioned in 2017 by Multistory to return to the same location. Almost three decades have since passed and Robert’s new body of work continues to explore this working class community.
The exhibition was first exhibited at Rounds Green Library on the Lion Farm Estate as part of Blast! Photography Festival during May and June 2019, and it will tour to three more Sandwell libraries from September to November 2019.
Robert Clayton graduated from Wolverhampton University in 1991 and, since then, has worked as a full time freelance photographer in London, shooting both commercial and long term documentary work. He specialises in photographing the changing British social landscape and his early career project ‘Estate’ has been highly acclaimed. Robert’s work has featured in The Observer, The Independent, BBC, New York Daily News and he is represented by LA Noble Gallery, London.
Langley Library / 2 to 28 Sept 2019
Bleakhouse Library / 1 to 30 Oct 2019
Oldbury Library / 1 to 30 Nov 2019
A free newspaper containing images from Estate Return can be picked up from the libraries during the tour.
Artist Talk & Film Screening of ‘Estate’ (15 minutes long)
Oldbury Library, 23 Nov 2019, 11AM – 1PM
Robert Clayton introduces us to his new exhibition ‘Estate Return’ and presents his short film ‘Estate’ (2015), followed by a conversation between Robert, residents of Lion Farm Estate and a representative from Accord Housing to discuss the work and its’ social implications, the need for social housing and community; the reality of the housing situation in Sandwell, and what makes a successful neighbourhood. With refreshments, kids activities and free copies of Estate Return newspaper available.
The piece written by Rob Clayton “Lion Farm Estate chose me” introducing his photos really moved me-talking of resilience, “getting by” illustrated well by his original book + 2018 photos.
Very interesting. Very pleased to meet Rob. Also enjoyed talking to other people who have experience of the estate.
Comments from the exhibition launch