On the Beach is a new exhibition of lesser-seen work by Shirley Baker, held at Photofusion Photography Centre, Brixton from 12th May to 16th June. The private view was a huge success and curator Anna Douglas gave a fascinating gallery talk.
In a departure from her more well-known photos of 1960s Manchester and Salford, as seen at last year’s exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery, these works from the 1970s capture people enjoying leisure time at the seaside. She photographs British people in Blackpool and on the Cote d’Azur on the French Riviera, always with her unfailing eye for unusual compositions, often capturing quietly amusing moments.
After dedicating a decade to photographing urban landscapes, Shirley may have found a different environment to photograph, but in some ways she has not strayed so far from her previous work. Just as in the 1960s she photographed the ‘end of an era’ – the terraced houses of Manchester torn asunder and replaced by tower blocks, here she photographs English families and teens in Blackpool in a similar situation. Looming on the horizon is the low-cost holiday package to Spain, a lure which was to change the attitude to the British holiday forever.
There may be a wry humour in her photographs, but it is always gentle and compassionate. Shirley cared about the lives of the people she photographed, she saw the poverty and hardship many were experiencing and consequently her photographs capture the stories and the lives of those she featured.
Anna Douglas, who also curated Shirley’s last exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery, adds: “Baker’s gaze alights kindly on her subjects, never sending them up for a cheap laugh or sarcastic dig.”
Photofusion: Shirley Baker On the Beach from 12th May to 16th June.
Photofusion Gallery is a wonderful space, located a minute’s walk to Brixton tube station. There is a pleasant and airy first-floor gallery space, and it was wonderful to be shown the darkroom by Executive Director Kim Shaw. There are a multitude of photography courses available to anyone who wants to learn about, or improve, their technique. Unfortunately, Photofusion faces a doubling of their rent which could see this wonderful institution have to close. There is currently a Crowdfunding campaign underway to save it. Please help if you can. crowdfunder.co.uk/photofusion
My review of Shirley Baker at The Photographers’ Gallery “Women and Children; and Loitering Men” is here Review link