Sean Dissington || February 4th

When I was little my dad used to walk me to school and back. Twice a day we’d stroll from Hanford to St. Theresa’s in Trent Vale. Thousands of times I walked across the bridge that carries the A34 over the Trent and I can’t say I spend much time thinking about the river. I’m sure I noticed it, but it didn’t talk to me in any particular way. Even then I was paying more attention to where I was going than where I was - but that’s what we all do isn’t it? We write in our planner “Go to the dentist”, “See Mark in London”, “Buy cereal”. We define our time in terms of goals, in terms of destinations. We don’t stop, we don’t look.

Daniel Lyttleton and Chris Neophytou want to make us think about that. Or rather, they want us to think. Their ‘zine “Trent” is about the River that gives our city its name, but as they say - the name is so often abbreviated to “Stoke” from “Stoke-on-Trent”, is this an exercise in brevity? Perhaps, but then “Kardashian” is ten letters long, and plenty of people seem to be willing to type that into Google - presumably to find out what they are for.

Their hypothesis is that we are so far removed from our surroundings that the Trent, the very namesake of our city has lost meaning. We are so detached from our surroundings that we don’t know anything about it or where to find it. It’s somehow fitting that we describe our city using words that describe what we do (or did) “The Potteries”, rather than where we are, “the Trent”. As much as this zine presents itself as a message about a river, it has more to say about who we are, and what we think matters to us. By presenting photography as a means to engage with our surroundings Lyttleton and Neophytou are telling us that we should disengage from the need to always be doing something, always be going somewhere and just be somewhere, and look and see what’s there.

As someone who is passionate about photography that’s a message I can certainly agree with, I’m as guilty as anyone else of rushing about with my eyes fixed on a smartphone, or my mind on a meeting - but to do that is to rob yourself of the variety of that surrounds us. Stoke-on-Trent is a city that can surprise us all.

As a photographer I am very much on board with their message, looking at the world through a lens forces you to think about what you’re looking at and where it sits in context. We could all learn more about our home town, and ourselves by focussing more on where we are now. Trent is a beautifully presented Zine which takes the reader on a journey through its high resolution printed images. Use of negative space and full pages give the impression that the viewer is literally peeking through the lens, or stepping back to take in a full view. Trent represents the struggle to find the river, and the various ways in which it manifests and it has certainly inspired me to look for the river myself, to see what I might find.

Trent is available now from Out of Place books, it’s an inspiring conversation starter, a selection of beautiful images and for many residents of the city, will take you back to memories long forgotten. Priced as it is, you really can’t defend not owning a copy.

Get it here: