New Gallery – Michael Hess: Bingo And Social Club Five Years On

Bingo Caller at the Perseverance Social Club - South Shields

Bingo Caller at the Perseverance
Social Club – South Shields

Back in April we announced that Playing Bingo had commissioned the photographer Michael Hess to visit a number of UK bingo halls, in a follow-up to his his excellent book Bingo And Social Club. The original book was a visually stunning document of the players and people in a number of clubs in England, originally published in 2010, and shot over a number of years prior to that.

As an occasional photographer with the odd bit professional work under my belt, I was really impressed with the work Michael did for the book. Not only was it a great series of artful character portraits, but one of the most important social documents the game has. There is little else like it available that records the retail game in the UK in the 21st century. With that in mind, I approached Michael with a mind to commissioning more work along these lines, to help expand on this important visual archive of UK land bingo. The fruits of this partnership can be seen in our new gallery in the Photography section of the Creative Corner – Michael Hess: Bingo And Social Club Five Years On.

Michael suggested the five years on theme to me, and instantly it seemed like a great idea. A lot had changed in the time since he shot the bulk of the book. We had the introduction of the smoking ban, club closures, player number drops and high taxation for bingo clubs. But more positively, we also had innovations in the game like ebingo in clubs, new super halls with added entertainment, younger players getting involved and more. Michael spent a week in April 2013 visiting a number of halls around the UK, photographing the players and the places. The result for us is an exciting visual document of the clubs and life in UK bingo halls in April 2013. The clubs Michael visited are listed below, along with a link to each individual gallery.

Michael presented us with 88 images from his week’s shooting, all highlighting various aspects of the game today. There are shots of the familiar older bingo player as well as a younger audience. The buildings themselves come to life with a mixture of panoramic views and tightly focused details. We see a closed club, held in suspended animation awaiting its fate as a new Tesco supermarket and in other shots we see vibrant clubs carrying on regardless of the problems bought by the smoking ban and reduced player numbers.

What excites me about this collection of work is the great mood created by the images, the striking compositions and fleeting moments caught by the camera. The day to day life is brought into sharp focus with well judged and well timed images. I’m sure you will agree, there is little else like this out there to do with bingo. In fact I plan on doing more like this in the future, and hope Michael will be willing to bring his unique eye to some more bingo halls around the UK, capturing the essence of the game and its players whilst they’re still there to be captured. Go look for yourself and enjoy the photos, I know I did!

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