A new exhi­bi­tion of Shirley Bak­er’s work is now tak­ing place online at the James Hyman Gallery. Called ‘A Dif­fer­ent Age’, it focus­es on the lives of elder­ly peo­ple. Much of Shirley Bak­er’s work has cen­tred on work­ing class com­mu­ni­ty life, the pho­tographs tak­en in bomb-shat­tered post-war Man­ches­ter and Sal­ford in the 1960s and 70s where Shirley would walk through the streets, tire­less­ly doc­u­ment­ing its peo­ple. She was very much a street pho­tog­ra­ph­er – bare­ly any of her work was tak­en indoors. This was also a time when every­one from babies to the elder­ly lived much of their lives in pub­lic rather than shut away indoors, where they could inter­act and chat and chil­dren could play in the rel­a­tive­ly traf­fic-free streets. 

We are liv­ing through curi­ous times as we emerge through lock­down, and this has been a dif­fi­cult time for our elder­ly in par­tic­u­lar. Many have found them­selves hav­ing to live in iso­la­tion, deprived of the chance to inter­act and engage with the wider com­mu­ni­ty and with the loss of a sense of value. 

These thoughts led Shirley’s daugh­ter, Nan Levy to con­sid­er an exhi­bi­tion high­light­ing her moth­er’s work where old­er peo­ple take cen­tre stage. She says, “We are now start­ing to see the eas­ing of the lock­down, and with that, we can begin to step out­side, enjoy the sun­shine and play sport. Sad­ly our elder­ly folk are still advised to stay safe at home; unable to see their loved ones or enjoy sim­ple plea­sures such as going to the park.” 

Thus was born this new exhi­bi­tion which focus­es on the elder­ly, enjoy­ing their lives as a part of their com­mu­ni­ties, some enjoy­ing hob­bies and oth­ers sit­ting on their front steps or park bench­es. These depict the aspects that we are used to see­ing from Shirley Bak­er: gen­tle, some­times wry­ly amus­ing com­po­si­tions, with old­er peo­ple enjoy­ing aspects of dai­ly life with­in the community. 

Nan Levy and James Hyman Gallery have co-cre­at­ed A Dif­fer­ent Age online exhi­bi­tion with 20 images depict­ing elder­ly peo­ple from the 1960s, 70s and 80s, pri­mar­i­ly in Man­ches­ter and Sal­ford. Some of these images have not been seen before. 

Shirley Bak­er (1932–2014) was born in Ker­sal, North Sal­ford. She took up pho­tog­ra­phy at the age of eight when she and her twin sis­ter were giv­en Brown­ie cam­eras by an uncle. As a child she devel­oped her first black and white film in the dark­ness of the coal shed. Her pas­sion for pho­tog­ra­phy con­tin­ued and she went on to study Pure Pho­tog­ra­phy at Man­ches­ter Col­lege of Technology. 

She is said to be one of few women in post-war Britain to receive for­mal pho­to­graph­ic train­ing. Upon grad­u­at­ing, she held a posi­tion at Cour­taulds the fab­ric man­u­fac­tur­ers, as an in-house fac­to­ry pho­tog­ra­ph­er. She much pre­ferred work­ing as a free­lance writer and pho­tog­ra­ph­er on mag­a­zines, books and news­pa­pers. The pro­duced col­lec­tions of pho­tographs explore British soci­ety in tran­si­tion fol­low­ing Word War II and lead­ing up to the more mate­ri­al­is­tic 1990s.


With thanks to Mary Evans Pic­ture Library

3 thoughts on “Exhibition ‘A Different Age’ by Shirley Baker

  1. Won­der­ful to see these bril­liant­ly observed images. Shirley was a dear friend for many years and was always char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly mod­est about her achieve­ments in pho­tog­ra­phy. I still trea­sure her book of street pho­tos tak­en around Sal­ford in a world now gone forever.

    1. How love­ly to hear from a friend of Shirley’s. She was indeed very mod­est and I think this is why she got the best out of her sub­jects as they relaxed in her pres­ence. I have let Nan know that you have been in touch too. Best wishes.

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