Old Sessions House during the Here we are exhibition
Old Ses­sions House: Here We Are Burber­ry exhibition

There is bare­ly a moment, whether it be a fash­ion move­ment or a colour­ful cake, that does­n’t find itself Insta­grammed to death these days. How dif­fer­ent were those post-war decades as British soci­ety dust­ed itself down and embraced a chang­ing world – build­ings, fur­ni­ture, tribes, fash­ion, music, food and hol­i­days, so much was tempt­ing­ly on the hori­zon – for some at least. We have to thank a rel­a­tive­ly small and ded­i­cat­ed group of pho­tog­ra­phers who dis­cov­ered a love for the cam­era and their sub­jects, who painstak­ing­ly doc­u­ment­ed British life and have pro­duced not only beau­ti­ful images but ones that act as a his­tor­i­cal record. Many of these pho­tog­ra­phers are fea­tured in an exhi­bi­tion host­ed by Burber­ry, where the Sep­tem­ber col­lec­tions are on show along­side the pho­to­graph­ic work. Enti­tled Here We Are, the exhi­bi­tion is tak­ing place at the beau­ti­ful­ly restored Clerken­well venue Old Ses­sions House, a flu­id and light-filled space which works per­fect­ly for this sym­bio­sis of pho­tog­ra­phy and fashion.

Curat­ed by Burber­ry pres­i­dent Christo­pher Bai­ley and Lucy Kumara Moore, the pho­tog­ra­phy rep­re­sents, as Bai­ley states, “a por­trait of British life, in all its nuances, both excep­tion­al and mun­dane, beau­ti­ful and harsh”. 

From Tatler pho­tog­ra­ph­er Dafy­dd Jones and his images of debu­tantes and balls to Col­in O’Brien’s trav­eller chil­dren; from Chris Steele-Perkins reg­gae dancers at 70s clubs to Janette Beck­man’s Two Punk Girls, Hyde Park, the breadth and vibran­cy of British soci­ety is explored as the cen­tu­ry unfold­ed, shak­ing off its post-war despondency.


Two Punk Girls Janette Beckman
Two Punk Girls by Janette Beckman


Photographs at Here we are exhibition
Pho­tog­ra­phy wall at Here We Are exhibition

The pho­to­graph­ic work on the first floor is dis­played against the exposed walls, divid­ed into typ­i­cal­ly British themes: gar­dens, hous­es, pic­nics, weath­er. The images are in turn wry, amus­ing and heart-wrenching. 

Some pho­tog­ra­phers realised that they were cap­tur­ing a time of great upheaval, and although change and mod­erni­sa­tion were wel­comed, they had an under­ly­ing sense that com­mu­ni­ties were being bro­ken apart. Shirley Bak­er cap­tured res­i­dents of ‘slum’ areas of Man­ches­ter and Sal­ford in the 60s as they were moved from ter­raced homes to new tow­er blocks. Sim­i­lar­ly in the 70s, Daniel Mead­ows record­ed over 1,000 peo­ple and the way they lived in his social exper­i­ment Free Pho­to­graph­ic Omnibus. He wit­nessed sim­i­lar dis­truc­tion of com­mu­ni­ty bonds as the ‘old way of life’ reced­ed. Here We Are dis­plays pho­tographs and video from his project – the video of three young boys inter­viewed about their rac­ing pigeons is a touch­ing example. 

Along­side the works, reflect­ing the quirky, defi­ant­ly indi­vid­u­al­is­tic spir­it of the images are the new col­lec­tions by Burber­ry. Dis­played on man­nequins, they invite you to walk amongst them and touch and exam­ine the clothes. There’s a sense of inno­cence, play­ful­ness and joy about the col­lec­tion: fine, gos­samer- del­i­cate embroi­dered dress­es are paired with heavy clog-shaped ankle boots; a knit­ted tank top gets the Bay City Rollers treat­ment, paired with above-ankle length tar­tan trousers; yet anoth­er tank top is paired with a mil­i­tary inspired skirt, short socks and high heels. The clas­sic Burber­ry check gets a look-in too, with jack­ets, bags and a cap here and there. 

The Green Room showed the September Burberry collections
The Green Room showed the Sep­tem­ber Burber­ry collections

There’s also a Claire de Rouen book­shop with a small but well-cho­sen selec­tion of books by some of the pho­tog­ra­phers rep­re­sent­ed at the show. 

Here We Are, Old Ses­sions House

The exhi­bi­tion ran from Sep­tem­ber 18 to Octo­ber 1

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