A new photographic exhibition capturing everyday moments of Black Country life from the 1970s and 1980s is set to go on display in Birmingham.

Taken from the personal collection of late photojournalist Phil Loach, the exhibition has been curated alongside a special accompanying book.

Originally from Dudley, Loach was a professional photographer working for newspapers in the Black Country, starting his career at the Dudley Herald in 1969 and then later working at the County Express in Stourbridge, rising to become the publication’s chief photographer.

Born in the West Midlands, Loach studied art and photography at Stourbridge College of Art and Leicester Polytechnic, before venturing into photography as a career.

Men walk with a pet snake in Cradley in 1981Phil Loach
Men walk with a pet snake in Cradley in 1981
Four youngsters in their railway embankment 'camp' off Bradleymore Road, Brockmoor in 1976Phil Loach
Four youngsters in their railway embankment ‘camp’ off Bradleymore Road, Brockmoor in 1976

Over the course of almost 50 years, Loach photographed a wide range of people including public figures, celebrities, politicians, entertainers and royalty; working at various news titles in Halesowen, Kidderminster, Redditch and Bromsgrove.

Unfortunately, Loach passed away suddenly last year, his family said, but his work had been accepted for a new book before he died. Although the photographer didn’t get to see it published, his wife Dot Byrne wanted “to make sure that his work was seen”.

“He was a photographer through and through, and even around the house there was always a camera within easy reach,” she said.

Pub regulars do battle in a tug of war over the canal basin at Nine Locks, Delph in 1978Phil Loach
Pub regulars do battle in a tug of war over the canal basin at Nine Locks, Delph in 1978
1950s actress Diana Dors signs autographs at the opening of a gaming parlour in Brierley Hill in 1979Staff Reporter
1950s actress Diana Dors signs autographs at the opening of a gaming parlour in Brierley Hill in 1979

“After Phil passed I really wanted to make sure that the plans that were in place came to, to make sure that his work was seen, and what he’d wanted to do was done.”

Byrne said her husband took thousands of personal photographs and created a large private collection of documentary images.

“He was a people-watcher, he loved photographing people in everyday situations.”

Shoppers brace for a blizzard at Five Ways, Brierley Hill, 1976Phil Loach
Shoppers brace for a blizzard at Five Ways, Brierley Hill, 1976

“He was an observer, he saw things that other people wouldn’t see let alone have the nerve to photograph.”

According to the photographer’s website, most of Loach’s photographs are described as “personal, a reaction and response to Phil’s surroundings, people and events, to fashion and social trends, to the everyday life of everyday people”.

Phil Loach’s images will feature in a publication dedicated to his work – The Black Country 1970s-1980s – published by Café Royal Books, an award-winning publisher of documentary photography founded in 2005. The compact book can be purchased here.

Phil Loach (1949-2023), was born in Dudley and studied art and photography at Stourbridge College of Art and Leicester PolytechnicPhil Loach
Phil Loach was born in Dudley and studied art and photography at Stourbridge College of Art and Leicester Polytechnic

The photographic exhibition showcasing Phil Loach’s work will run from 13 to 24 February at the RBSA Gallery in St Paul’s Square, Birmingham.

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