A new exhibition of documentary photography comes to the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum in Birkenhead next week. Distinctly runs from Saturday 28 September to Sunday 24 November, bringing together 10 of the most impactful photographers working in Britain over the last half century.
Each photographer, while taking a unique approach to their depiction of aspects of British life and its communities, shares a sense of commitment to the regions photographed. At a moment when photography seems polarised between the brevity of digital media and a more sustained sense of collaboration, the exhibition shows work by young photographers in conversation with more established practitioners.
Colin M Simpson, Wirral’s Principal Museums Officer, said of the exhibition: “The exhibition Distinctly works in two ways. Firstly, it is an example of how viewing things large and in person is a very different experience from seeing the same images in a book or on a newspaper page.
“Secondly, the range and quality of the images in Distinctly is a revelatory sample of British documentary photography from the last 50 years. Many of these prints now have an historical resonance that allows us to ponder on how far things have moved for certain sections of society in the 21st century.”
From Robert Darch’s account of rural traits and agriculture in the Southwest, to Kirsty Mackay’s work with those now living in the streets of her Glasgow childhood, the exhibition draws on Britain’s diverse communities and topographies, Daniel Meadows offers street portraiture made a converted double-decker bus in the 1970s – a project completed when he sought out the same subjects a few decades later. Niall McDiarmid’s contemporary work continues that tradition of street portraiture, journeying across Britain to build a growing inventory of colour, style and personality.
John Myers’ portraits from the Midlands have only recently been published for the first time, an important account of the suburban experience in the 1970s, while Tish Murtha and Ken Grant both draw on an intimate knowledge of their own culture in Northeast and Northwest of England. Featured in the exhibition will be Grant’s depictions of Birkenhead in the 1980 and 90s. Chris Killip’s photographs, taken over more than a decade, bring together work from a long-term series he made in the industrial Northeast, across several political eras, to establish a subjective narrative that is a landmark in the photobook’s development and the exhibiting of photography in Britain.
The exhibition is completed by Martin Parr’s Bad Weather, an innovative response to our preoccupation with the weather and, perhaps in counterbalance, Marketa Luskacova’s photographs of street musicians. The series she began a young mother walking the markets of London’s East End, shows those who make music in the street and, like so many of those featured in this exhibition, manage to find their own ways to make their way in Britain.
The exhibition at the Williamson Art Gallery & Museum opens to the public on Saturday 28 September and will run until Sunday 24 November as part of LOOK Photo Biennial with Open Eye Gallery, in partnership with Wirral Borough of Culture.
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