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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Final Major Project: Review of Philip Singleton’s Zine ‘Birmingham Dust’

Birmingham Dust is definitely one of the most polished and professional zines that I have come across. The zine provides the documentation of buildings that are decaying. But it is so much more than that, as Singleton has not only observed the loss of these buildings, but he has found beauty where others would consider there to be none.

The short introduction points out that “dust surrounds the neglected” and that “dust is the gritty manifestation of death by demolition” (Singleton 2018). Often gaining access to buildings immediately prior to their demolition, Singleton is able to record their last breath, providing a lasting trace of the splendour that once was.

In Birmingham Dust, the photographic documentation is the most important part of the process. However, it is not simply a case of documenting what may soon disappear. The work makes sense when viewed as a collection as well as just single instances. Together the images tell of the splendour and beauty in spaces long forgotten.

The work is powerful and emotive; the content would generally be overlooked by passers-by, the scenes before them becoming part of the ‘noise’ of the urban landscape.  These soon to be lost scenes have in Singleton’s skillful hands become artwork, forever to be recorded and remembered.

The zine is beautifully presented, printed on dark grey with clean white lines breaking up the images. The map of locations adds context and significance to the forgotten spaces. The lithographic printing process adds a certain quality and importance to the images. Singleton reminds us not forget what came before. These buildings are part of our heritage and history.

The glossy fold out in the centre is stunning and the highlight of the publication. The graduation of tones in the images adds a great deal of depth and detail to each one. The images jump off the pages at the viewer and make them take note at the captured moment in time; the paused moment (to use the words of Singleton).

This zine is the first of hopefully many that Singleton will produce.


Singleton, P. 2018. Birmingham Dust.

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