Photography News | Issue 31 | absolutephoto.com
Foreign affairs This is how photographers from around the world and across the decades see Great Britain and its people. How will we view their images of us?
Troubles from the Protestants’ point of view. And getting a firstUKrelease is Raymond Depardon’s work from Glasgow, shot for The Sunday Times in 1980, but never published. Two unknowns Parr was keen to include are Frank Habicht and Gian Butturini. “They had fallen off the radar, but made a fantastic body of work around the 60s,” explains Pardo. “At the same time Brian Duffy and Norman Parkinson were working, they were out on the street photographing a much more dystopian vision of 60s Britain.” Two criteria were applied to choosing the photographers. Firstly, the work had to be truly representative of Great Britain, “including Scotland,Wales, England, northtosouthandeasttowest,aswell as Northern Ireland, and charting the social history of Britain, how we’ve changed, how others see us and how they’ve influenced British photography. Ultimately the show charts a history of Britain through the medium of photography.” Secondly, the photographers must not have settled permanently in Britain. “They had to be travelling through or may have spent up to a decade here, but they hadn’t become affiliated or appropriated into the mainstream of British photography.” “The show’s quite bleak,” continues Pardo. “It is a portrait of a Britain that’s quite down at heel, it’s about austerity and poverty, unemployment. It charts the economic and social decline to the Thatcher years, from post-war austerity, to that one moment of euphoria in the 60s and then the pretty bleak 70s and 80s with strikes and urban decay.” Echoing this bleakness, the galleries within the exhibition
are all grey. However, it’s not an exhibition to simply be walked around. There is a curated route, as its architecture, commissioned by Pardo from architecture practice Witherford Watson Mann, leads you on a prescribed walk through the chronologically presented works. “But within the gargantuan space we’ve created a library area that acts as the backbone of the show, which people can come in and out of. You’re encouraged to sit down, take a moment, read a book. “Hopefully people will engage with that space, spend time in there, and get to know the photographers more,” encourages Pardo.
Written by Lisa Clatworthy
Magnum Martin Parr’s been busy. Not only is his own exhibition Unseen City currently on at London’s Guildhall Art Gallery, he’s also curated Strange and Familiar for the Barbican. Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers depicts our country through the eyes of social documentary, architecture, street and portrait shooters from around the world, from the 1930s to the present day. It’s a huge topic, and the exhibition is large, as Barbican curator Alona Pardo, who collaborated with Parr, tells us: “There’s plenty to see. We’ve got about 350 prints in the show, but we’re also showing 60 photo books, rare and out of print works. We actually selected just 23 photographers, but we could have shownmany more.” Among those photographers are some well-known names such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Bruce Gilden and some lesser known ones, like Akihiko Okamura. A photojournalist who covered the Vietnam War and the Biafran conflict, “Okamura was clearly drawn to photograph conflict, but with such a different gaze from anyone else photographing at the time. He photographed across the Republic and Northern Ireland. His photographs are very beautiful, lyrical colour works that feel very different. His work has never been shown here in the UK; we came across it in Japan. I think he’ll be an absolute revelation,” says Pardo. Other works new to the British public are 51 shots from Gilles Peress’s study of the Northern Irish photographer
‘Strange and Familiar’ is at the Barbican Art Gallery, London until 19 June.
Top left Candida Höfer, Liverpool IX, 1968 Top right Edith Tudor- Hart. Kensal House, London ca. 1938 Above Tina Barney, The Red Sheath, 2001.
Below& right Okamura’s work fromNorthern Ireland in the 1970s.
©AkihikoOkamura /Courtesyof theestateofAkihikoOkamura,Hakodate,Japan
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