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)