In Focus Friday - All Roads Lead to Wigan Pier

03 November 2017

SIG: Documentary


After featuring in the September issue of Decisive Moment Timothy Foster talks to us about this great shot from his project All Roads Lead to Wigan Pier.

The project is a photographic journey born of the UK’s vote to leave the EU in 2016. It also coincides with the 80thanniversary of the publication of George Orwell’s book, The Road To Wigan Pier, and has become an exploration and challenge of difference, identity and civic pride. 

The exhibition at The Turnpike runs until Saturday, November 11 and is visited by Prince Andrew Friday, November 3.

Hi, Tim, can you give us a little background about the shot?

I was in the area trying to convince a local mosque to get involved [in the project] and my contact, "Brother Joseph", said to me after I'd explained the project to “aren’t you just a dosser”?

Feeling deflated I walked around the surrounding area and into a wasteland at the back of a new building estate. It was raining drizzle all afternoon and I waited around for two hours to see who would come by, and then I saw the kids hanging out under the trees in a den playing music on their mobile phones. I approached them and the kid with the ginger hair shouted, “He’s a fucking Peedo”!

I motioned to the GoPro video recorder on my shoulder recording it all and said, “Do you want to say that a little louder”? There was some grumbling about if they should pose for the picture and I cajoled them by saying, "stop dicking about", and then they posed. Sometimes it works to have a bit of blag.

What equipment did you use to capture this shot?

I shot this on a Hasselblad 500cm 80mm f2.8 using Provia 100f and using a light meter app on my phone to check my exposures. I took two frames. 

What was your plan for the day?

To try and get an angle on if the Muslim community regarded themselves as working class. Things never turn out as you imagine and that’s the magic of photography, you have to let go for things to happen.

What’s your routine just before heading out with your camera?

Charge everything the night before. In the morning: Yoga, then porridge. Repack my backpack, then laugh at photographers with shoulder bags and awaiting chiropractor bills.

While you’re out what makes you press the shutter release?

Good question. The unknown, is the best answer I have. 

I can explain this best in the photograph I took of a woman sweeping the leaves in a street outside her house covered in Lanzaroti tan and wearing her slippers. I knew there was something there, a scratch I can almost feel, she posed but I don’t shoot, then two men from behind not knowing what I was doing because I’m crouched on the floor with my Hasselblad, they walk just into shot, her face changes to say fuck off to the guys, and bam - a knee jerk reaction I take the shot. The men pass and she says, “they’re not from around here, foreigners”. The shot of the kids works for me not because of the angles or the exposure but because of the girl who doesn’t want to be in the shot bottom right, I guess it’s being cheeky and not shooting for the permanently happy on Instagram.

Where can we find more of your work?

On my website: or you can buy my book called, Superman's Pockets. If anyone wants to sponsor a book on the All roads lead to Wigan pier project please get in contact with me at

What do you think photographers don’t do but should?

I meet many new photographers that are easily disillusioned, colleges don’t teach how to survive as a photographer, so grads think someone’s just going to come to their house and knock on their door and offer them money shooting whatever they want forever. You have to be a bit of a whore in this business, go see and enjoy talking to new people, keep fresh and keep your projects running in the background, its good mental health for shooters to live like this I think. That said, try not to sit on your laurels, I know many photographers who have “made it” commercially but are bored and clinically unhappy, so I guess it’s a question of honouring yourself, where do you feel happy?

And finally, which has been your all time favourite camera and why?

I’m from a film generation working now in an electronic digital age, yet for me it was my Mamiya RZ with a 110 lens, just beautiful, and the sound of the shutter and mirror with every shot was (excuse the pun) electric. 

I chose the Hasselblad this time just out of bulk and weight because I was walking around for 12 hours a day. This brings me onto the photographer Dougie Wallace who I kept bumping into and we talked about shooting a short doc on his Harrodsburg, I asked him where he was at and he told me, “everyday outside Harrods” and I thought, this guy is putting in the hours, what’s my excuse not to do ARLTWP? It was nice going back to film on the ARLTWP project, people couldn’t see what I’d shot and most thought I was looking at the ground, not through a prism at them. Also, I miss the feeling of holding what I’ve done that you get from a sheet of negatives, I suppose it’s the grafter in me, sometimes I just wish I could put my hand in the screen and hold what I’ve done, it’s a personal satisfaction thing. My canon systems have been bullet proof over 20 years, but the lenses, although they have silent autofocus, could always be better quality.

Thanks Tim, I hope you find a backer for ARLTWP soon.