The Dairy: Going underground

34th Street I, Philadelphia by Victoria Lucas
34th Street I, Philadelphia by Victoria Lucas
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YOU might say this is a step up from your average photo exhibition. In fact, strictly speaking, it’s several flights of steps down.

Sheffield camera woman Victoria Lucas has travelled across the world to snap these different stairwells at different underground train stations.

Why? Well, it’s more interesting than pictures of elevators, isn’t it?

Now, the five-year project, which saw her capture 30 subterranean hubs in firstly Berlin and then Philadelphia, has so impressed America’s arty types it is being premiered exclusively in the US.

The near life-size images – jointly called Interruptions – have gone on show at the prestigious Grizzly Grizzly gallery in Philadelphia. Victoria herself has just flown back from the opening party.

“It’s been busy but rewarding,” notes the 31-year-old of Pinner Road, Hunter’s Bar. “Jet-lagged today, though.”

The project started while the professional artist and fine art lecturer was living in Berlin. Everyday, she’d catch the U8 underground and started to notice the difference between the western stations – built before the collapse of the Berlin Wall – and the eastern, which came after.

“It was such a contrast,” explains Victoria, who’s based at Bloc studio complex in Eyre Lane, city centre. “And I thought it would be interesting to picture that.

“These places are so transient. People use them every day but perhaps never notice the architecture or what makes them special. That’s why I didn’t want anyone in the picture. These stations are theatre sets for real life. I wanted to capture the moments of stillness.”

It meant waiting up to 30 minutes to get some shots.

“A security guard came up at one point and asked what I was doing,” she remembers.

“He said I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of people. I told him that wasn’t a problem.”

That was 2008. Then in 2012, a gallery curator in Philadelphia got in touch and asked if she’d be interested in showcasing the work there, while adding to the collection with photos of that city’s underground.

“What struck me,” says Victoria, who originally comes from Wakefield and moved here in 2009, “is how the Berlin and Philadelphia stations reflect each other.”

Now the exhibition runs until April 27. Grizzly Grizzly gallery is in North 11th Street if you get a chance to nip across.

And then? Victoria is already working on other projects including organising an international exhibition of six UK artists in Mexico city. But she’s not ruled out adding more undergrounds to her collection.

“It might be something I’d look in the future,” she muses. “It’s a pity Sheffield doesn’t have one.”

See more at www.victorialucas.co.uk