I was really blown over by the ShirleyBarker Exhibition when I visited the photographers Gallery last week, one of the most affecting exhibitions of street photography I have seen for quite some time, I can’t recommend it more highly.
Baker’s photography captures a bygone era with a strong sense of community sprit and a feeling of Northern nostalgia. She began in the early sixties with a desire to capture the street life, but this soon turned into a larger project. Baker felt that she had almost a compulsion to record the face of a people at a time when their homes were being demolished and they were being uprooted due to a huge ‘slum’ clearance programme.
Thus the adults of the community wear the expression of good nature but carry the burden of a time of immense change. The younger generation, however, are immune. The children saw things differently, Shirley Baker wrote, for to them it was a giant playground with untold treasure hidden amongst the junk and rubble.
Barkers photographs show the exuberance of metropolitan life as well as the fallout from a time when, in Shirley’s words:
“Institutions were being closed down and the under-privileged, the sad and the mad were squatting, begging and lying in the streets”.
Thought to be the only female street photographer out documenting the life of the inhabitants of post-war Britain, her candid, funny, bleak and surreal images tell a tale of poverty, community and resilience, and The Photographer’s Gallery is putting on the first major exhibition of her work, compiling 20 years of her images of Manchester (following on from a 2012 photobook) that will hopefully address her neglected place in the cannon. The exhition runs until 20th September.