Mums-to-be asked to back Sunderland Newborns project

Carol McKay and Amanda Ritson of North East Photography Network, outside the old Fire Station in High Street West, Sunderland City Centre.
Carol McKay and Amanda Ritson of North East Photography Network, outside the old Fire Station in High Street West, Sunderland City Centre.
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Wearside’s mums-to-be are needed for a new culture exhibition which will see the faces of their babies projected onto a historic building.

The pictures will be displayed on the outside of the old Fire Station, in High Street West, as part of the Newborns project, which is aimed at celebrating Sunderland’s arts and culture.

It is intended to connect with Sunderland visitors and residents, creating a visual talking point that speaks across generations and between cultures.

Amanda Ritson of North East Photography Network

The artwork will be unveiled on Friday, September 18, at the launch of Sunderland’s bid to become UK City of Culture for 2021.

The baby portraits will be taken by acclaimed artist Julian Germain and their placing on such a building is intended to celebrate the city’s past – and future.

Julian explained: “I recently discovered that it is possible, with concentration, patience and some luck to make portraits of babies within only a few days of birth.

“I do not simply mean pictures (admittedly charming), but actual photographic portraits, where they are looking intensely and directly into the lens.

“If it can be captured, the young life behind their gaze is surely the most mysterious of all.

“So many questions are raised. How can we possibly imagine what they are imagining? How will they turn out? What does the future hold for them?

“As adults, we are also presented with a serious challenge, because we are responsible for the world they will grow up in.”

Julian, visiting professor at Sunderland University’s Northern Centre of Photography, is an artist with an international reputation who has produced work about the significance of the Durham Miners’ Gala today, long after the closure of the North East’s pits, while he also created a spectacular 13.1-mile long sculpture made out of thousands of people’s photos of the Great North Run.

The scheme is a joint commission from North East Photography Network (NEPN) in partnership with the Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust and the city’s university.

The trust recently received a £2.4million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to transform the old Fire Station, which opened in 1907 but has now stood empty for 22 years, into a cultural hub.

Project manager for NEPN Amanda Ritson said: “These newborns are symbols of a new generation, and will also look out on the city’s newly-completed public space and boulevard, Keel Square.

“The babies, as representatives of Sunderland’s newest residents, invite us to imagine how their futures will be intertwined with the city’s past, present and future.

“The artwork will be unveiled on September 18 and will remain on display for a month, until October 19.

“It is intended to connect with Sunderland visitors and residents, creating a visual talking point that speaks across generations.”

Women with babies due this month and would like to take part, should email newborns@sunderland.ac.uk along with a name and contact number before Friday.