Exercise: Survival Programmes

The course notes first ask us to look at the work of the Exit Photography Group, meaning Nicholas Battye (1950-2004), Chris Steele-Perkins (b.1947) and Paul Trevor (b.1947), specifically their 1974-79 project Survival Programmes.

The pictures are brutally shocking scenes from deprived inner cities of the UK in the 1970s  – London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Glasgow and Belfast.

A few thoughts on these images:

  • Though working as a group, individual styles emerged (at least in the examples chosen in the Foto8 article):
    • Battye did more posed portraiture, quite sombre
    • Steele-Perkins focused on the gritty, the negative and the shocking
    • Trevor was more upbeat, focused on activities more, e.g children playing
  • The inclusion of Belfast is puzzling; the specific situation in the city at the time, i.e. military presence, is so unique that it sticks out and jars with the rest – instead of showing the similarities with the other deprived cities, its differences are writ large
  • As to their use of B&W, the course notes include the claim: “The photographers felt that the truthfulness and visual authority of the medium would strengthen the message that they intended to convey.” (course notes: 36) – yet maddeningly there is no credited source for this
    • I’m really interested in this point, i.e. why photographers continued to use B&W for documentary work after colour was relatively mainstream
    • More on this to follow, I have another blog post brewing on this subject
  • I’m left wondering to what extent these photographs led to any real social reform; my research is frustratingly coming up short on this subject


Foto8 Volume 5 Number 1 https://issuu.com/foto8/docs/vol5no1 (accessed 15/04/2016)


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