New book uncovers the hidden charms of Sheffield's Sharrow Vale community
“I think Sheffield is the kind of city you have to dig beneath the surface of if you want to uncover its true charm,” says Darren O’Brien.
“You won't get to the root of what makes Sheffield special by spending a day here,” he adds.
“I think perhaps it isn’t all as accessible as it should be, but there’s such a lot going on under the surface, in all of its many communities, it's a city that deserves to be explored.”
It's clear, after chatting with Darren for just a few minutes, that the Heeley-based photographer, who moved to Sheffield just five years ago, still considers himself something of a newcomer to the steel city.
“I think with Sheffield there's this theme that we see time and time again, of people arriving in the city – whether it's for work, or as student at the university - and staying here for years, maybe even for a lifetime.
“It really does have a special charm that draws people in.”
And it's this charm that Darren has chosen to explore in his brand new book, ‘Sharrow Vale and the Antiques Quarter.’
The book, which was commissioned by The History Press, seeks to celebrate two of Sheffield’s most diverse and developing communities, unfolding the artistic and the vibrant on offer, whilst also delving deeper into the core values that hold them together.
“The History Press wanted me to produce a collection of street photography focusing on a certain area, or areas, of the city," explains Darren, aged 36.
“They wanted to focus on an area of Sheffield that is undergoing change in its community, where there is a general feeling of regeneration.
“I briefly considered looking at somewhere like Kelham Island, then I began to think closer to home, right on my own doorstep, and that’s when I thought of Sharrow Vale.
“It was really nice to have a good reason to photograph my own neighbourhood.”
Darren, who considers himself a documentary street photographer and photo journalist, moved to Sheffield with his partner from the South coast back in 1994.The book he’s created features around 120 images of Sharrow Vale, which Darren explains he took over the course of nearly two years.
“I love to explore heritage and history in photos,” he says.
“The street photography element of what I do comes in because I love to document day-to-day life, and that’s the same whether you’re in Morocco, or South Africa, or in a city like Sheffield.
“When I started on this particular project, I had this fascinating starting point of Abbeydale Road and the Picture House in my head.
“Abbeydale Road has such an interesting mix of traditional shops and businesses and communities, alongside new bars and restaurants.
“With Sharrow Vale, it’s almost a natural extension, as you move onto the Antiques Quarter, Queens Road, and Ecclesall Road.
“You have quite a nice middle-class leafy area, and then Sharrow Vale running almost through the middle of it, with that continuation of nice and interesting independent businesses.
“It’s a community that feels like it's been there for a while.
"I also like that Sharrow Vale has that wonderful community identity – with the market – which is the mainstay of the community – and the way the whole area seems to have embraced social media. It’s an area of the city that really holds your interest, and works together to make its presence known.
“It also has this wonderful diary of events, with markets and festivals happening around all year long, which make it a wonderful place to go exploring with a camera.
“I found that I was looking at this place I had lived for a number of years through different eyes, with a different access.”
A book launch event will be held at Abbeydale Picture House, on Abbeydale Road, on December 14, from 1pm to 4pm. The event is open to all.