Beneath the Square Mile is a fascinating set of photographs of the grimy, damp, complex and ancient utility infrastructure that operates under our feet, the existence of which we never much think about and the results of which are always taken for granted.
Pipes and wires and switches, from substations under East Tce to Hindley St (including some streets I have never even heard of – eg Devonshire Place and Fisher Place) affixed to grubby walls are emotively and expertly captured in these 15 large, 119cm x 84cm images.
Larcombe’s work is perhaps a homage to the engineers and workers to who put the infrastructure together in the first place – so much seems to date back to the 1950s and 1960s – and those who maintain it today. Certainly he revels in structuring his images around the engineers’ demands for order and system. It seems impossible to believe these places are lit so conveniently for these images as well but his control of the introduced light creates fine shadows and atmosphere without ever intruding into the reality. These are ‘no climb down the ladder, snap and get the hell out of there before the rats arrive’ efforts.
Larcombe’s use of rotting chairs, specific to each sub station, is also great (see attached image).
The placing of these images in the studio basement also adds significantly to the enjoyment of them all.
It is perhaps easy to see why some may blanch at these images for the walls at home but this is much the pity in many ways as Low Voltage (415V) Feeder Fuse Panel, Fisher Place Substation and the adjoining HV Cables and Manhole #1, East Tce Substation (at the very least) are terrific photographs.
However, the engineers out there and indeed the current utility operators ought to make a bee line to Mr Bond’s Magill Rd studios before this exhibition closes to snap up these statements of not only our city’s history but also the craftsmanship of old school geeks which normally gets only presented through images of superstructures such as roads, buildings and bridges.