British Art Photography 1980's Symposium

It was time to fire up the Quattro in true Gene Hunt, Ashes to Ashes style and revisit a Britain that was led by Thatcher , and was at war with Argentina. The country was reinventing itself , trying to shake off a post war hangover ! British Art Photography was still growing from the seeds planted in the late seventies . This was a time of industrial and social change , a new photographic language was emerging in Britain from unlikely sources !

The Bristol based Martin Parr Foundation followed up on last years 1970’s British Photography event with the 1980’s, speakers listed below

10.00 / Anna Fox
11.10 / Jem Southam
12.10 / Karen Knorr
13.00 / lunch
14.30 / Paul Graham
15.40 / Chris Killip
17.15 / panel discussion

Anna Fox started the day off with pictures that were critical of 80’s corporate culture and was followed by Gem Southam who spoke of the DIY ethos that existed at this time and the birth of The Over The Rainbow Gallery that became a important hub for British Photography in South West England . Mention was made of a less than complimentary comment left in the comments book by a then unknown photographer Paul Graham, I wonder whatever happened to him ?

Gem also reminded us of the significant early contributions of Newcastle based Spectro Arts , Side Gallery & Impressions Gallery York.

Karen Knorr shared her Belgravia work which became especially relevant at this time when juxtaposed with work like Killips industrial landscapes that were to feature in the afternoon session. Once again the important contribution of Creative Camera magazine was acknowledged in this golden period of British Art Photography, Strangely, considering the venue, Parrs , Last Resort published in 1986 barely got a mention ?

Mick Jagger told me a million times that I should never name drop or exaggerate so I won’t write of the folk I had the good fortune of meeting during the lunch break !


I met this bloke who used to live near me in Walker, Newcastle Upon Tyne and was familiar with The Scrogg Inn public house , not sure who he was , you meet some interesting folk at the Parr Foundation.

The afternoon session kicked off with a jet lagged Paul Graham who reminded us of the sacrifices that are necessary to see projects through to publication , Paul spoke of adopting the Punk ethos of self production and publication in order to avoid the editorial limitations & costs of the publishing gatekeepers .He still seems to be scarred by the memories of cleaning the tar out of a 50 inch print processor he used back in the day !, The price of fame ?

Despite the adoption of the Plaubel camera by all of the speakers, I was left with the feeling of a make do and mend approach, projects were funded or underfunded by maxed out credit cards and other dubious debts, these were, pioneering days ! These guy’s were risk takers, visually and financially !

The final speaker turned out to be the bloke I had photographed earlier in the lunch break, he knew his way around the North East of England and a Linhof 5x4 camera , he shared some great views and stories , I have known the work of Chris Killip most of my life as this work reflects much of my early life, I grew up in Killip’s Tyneside !

The day finished off with a panel discussion which sadly ran out of time just as it was getting interesting, I hope to hear more of Gerry Badgers observations on the British photography scene in future.

I will share more of my conversation with Mr Killip in a future blog , one story involves HCB and the Sea Coalers ?

Until next time, keep it real !

Killip Zines Here …