A Chat With Mr KILLIP

Those of you who read my British Photography Symposium piece last week will be aware that I managed a quick chat with Chris Killip at the event , I should explain that Chris Killip was director of Side Gallery in 1977 . I blame Killip and all things Side for my persistent photographic affliction !

Killips representation of the deindustrialisation of my everyday landscape taught me how familiar places looked when photographed , I also noticed that a photographic agenda could effect how often people smiled and determine if the sun would shine ?

I was more than a little confused when Chris described himself and the Tyneside work as none political , the famous quote from his In Flagrante (1988 edition) “Fiction about Metaphor” never sat well with me as a means of describing what I see as traditional solid documentary photography , is this Art Photography ? I never saw this work as Art at the time of capture, this work represented my reality !

I have to confess to seeing the Tyneside work as political , it was certainly critical , that was a large part of its appeal to me, this work fitted my natural politics, I naively read these photographic works as protest ! The “Prepare for revolution” graffiti did not seem unreasonable to me , the irony was that a revolution of capitalism had already started and I was in the middle of it !


I must admit that the more recent edition of In Flagrante conflicts me less than the original. The pictures were never a problem to me as I believed they were made with integrity, although the words made me less comfortable.

It should be remembered that In Flagrante was published 2 years after Parr’s full colour, New Brighton project, The Last Resort , 1986. . The In Flagrante work was never cutting edge, however the safe monochromatic tones placed these views into a evolving documentary tradition that was moving towards colour and the expectations of a modern international Art Photography audience. These pictures evolved into more than a few historical Tyneside views !

When chatting with Chris, I discovered that he too had been a resident of Walker, a suburb to the East of Newcastle city centre, he once lived on Welbeck Road , this explains why a number of his views were so familiar, they were literally very close to home !

We discussed the local pub , The Scrogg Inn , and his move to Bill Quay on the South side of the Tyne , overlooking Swan Hunters Shipyard , one of his visitors HCB made a sketch of the shipbuilding view from his window. .

Another question I asked him was about a on-line sea coal picture that I believed was mistakenly credited to HCB a few years ago , it turns out that HCB did photograph the Northumberland sea coalers ! Killip arranged Bresson access to the sea coalers at a time when he was not allowed to shoot them, he introduced HCB as a French journalist and the sea coalers were happy to be photographed by a foreign photographer as they believed his pictures would not be seen in England , Bresson was in the NE for his Side Gallery exhibition at the time of his 70th birthday. I believe his birthday party was in Byker ! I’m unsure if HCB visited The Middle Club ?

Finally I had to discover why he left Newcastle to take up a position at Harvard , as I was disappointed that Chris did not stay on Tyneside and share his insights with new local photographers like me . He told me that he had applied for a lecturing post at Newcastle Poly and had not even been selected for interview ! The reasons for this were unclear although past conflicts within the Northern Arts scene may have been influential ? A few weeks later a job offer from America arrived ,Chris needed a job at this time , the rest is history .

It was great to meet another of my teenage heroes at the Parr Foundation , revisiting Killips Tyneside. pictures has brought back some very warm personal memories of this place and these times.

Until next time keep it real !

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