Who is the girl with the pink lipstick?

Hannah Thomson tells the heartwarming story of her Mum (Tracey Thomson) who was featured in one of Tom Wood's photos of the Chelsea Reach in the 80s.

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“Is that you in the picture with the pink lipstick?” The pretty blonde lady asked my Mum. We had been at an exhibition in New Brighton, aptly named ‘New Brighton Revisited’ in 2018, and not only did Mum’s famous picture feature in the gallery but also on every poster along the New Brighton prom and the main entrance picture. 

She beamed back and nodded in response. ‘Oh my Gosh, I’ve met a celebrity! Can I take your picture with it?’ Mum eagerly accepted and posed for the stranger. She definitely felt special. 

She had always been proud of her picture, how many people seemed to love it, and the special memories it brought to not only her but to others. She often recounted the stories to us when we were little. She told us how Tom Wood had always been at the Chelsea Reach with his camera, and everybody loved getting their picture taken by him. ‘People didn’t have their own cameras back then’, she’d remind us.

Photo of a book called Looking for love Chelsea Reach by Tom Wood
Looking for Love, Chelsea Reach by Tom Wood

The book the picture featured in ‘Looking for Love’ was a series of pictures taken at the Chelsea Reach night club in 1985, featuring a series of 18-20 somethings on their quest to find love - as well as a few younger people that had managed to sneak in, one of which being Mum's sister who was only 16 at the time! ‘Oh, people weren’t as strict back then’ Mum had told us when we’d seen Aunty June in the book and worked out her age.

She always said how the title made her laugh, ‘I wasn’t looking for love, I just wanted to dance’. This was no doubt true, considering in 1985 at 18 she had just become a Mum for the first time to my older brother, and the nights at the Chelsea with her friends were her time to let her hair down and dance all night.

A woman stands next to a photo of herself in the 80s
Tracey Thomson stands next to her picture in the 'New Brighton Revisited' exhibition, 2018

Throughout the years, the picture would pop up in galleries and exhibitions, and Mum kept in contact with Tom Wood who she always admired. It was pretty cool as a kid to see your Mum's face on a gallery wall. I would sometimes get the book out and show my friends when they came round for tea, and they would laugh and comment how my Mum clearly hadn’t lost her love for pink, with nearly every room in the house decorated with the colour.

I don’t think, however, I fully appreciated how special this picture was until later on in life.

My Mum got diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in February 2018, at the age of 50. As her illness progressed, the picture would pop up again. She had just been in hospital two weeks before, getting an operation for a feeding tube, when the ‘New Brighton revisited’ exhibition was announced. It was like the picture kept popping up at the exact moments Mum needed a boost. 

The smile on her face when she saw her picture on the posters and when she was recognised said everything she didn’t need to about what that meant to her in that moment. It happened again when her picture was used by the Liverpool Echo. One of mums friends messaged and told them about her, and they subsequently asked to come and interview her. I helped communicate the interview, as she had lost her speech by that point, but she still beamed and laughed as they tried to re-create the photo of her putting on her pink lipstick. 

Photo of a woman in a wheel chair with a child on her lap below a banner with her photo on it
Tracey Thomson with her grandchildren underneath a banner for the 'New Brighton Revisited' exhibition which used her photo as the lead image, 2018

All the moments this one photo, taken on a random night out in 1985, had created for her 30 years later when she most needed it, it can’t be put into words how special it was.  

And now, three years after she sadly passed away, it still creates special memories, as her granddaughters get to go and experience seeing their nanny in another exhibition, in the Walker Art Gallery. ‘Photie Man: 50 Years of Tom Wood’ gives her picture another moment in the spotlight.

That’s the beauty of Tom Woods’ photography. It’s ordinary people going about their own lives, but it shows that no one is ordinary, everyone has a story, and everyone’s story deserves to be told. Walking around the 'Photie Man' exhibition, I wondered what all the people in the pictures were doing now and what their stories might be.

In Mum's case, she will forever live on as ‘the girl with the pink lipstick’.