From 19th May, Manchester Art Gallery will show the exhibition Women, Children; and Loitering Men, photographs by Shirley Baker taken primarily in the 1960s. Of Baker’s prolific output, these photographs of Manchester and Salford are her best known works and they reveal to us in compelling detail, a glimpse back in time; a snapshot of a city and its residents in transition.

Abandoned cars - Manchester 1965
1965

Baker (1932-2014) photographed the streets of Manchester and Salford in a period spanning from 1961 to 1981, a time in which huge change was taking place. “Slum clearance”, was widespread, and this relentless bulldozing of streets, some riven with bomb damage, promised a new world. Even before it took place, Baker recognised that not all these changes were for the better. Yes, people were moved into properties with bathrooms and modern facilities. Less positive was the ripping apart of communities, as the face of Manchester was changed for good. And those shiny new tower blocks began to decay at a far faster rate than the Victorian terraces they had replaced.

Girl with Pram by Shirley Baker

Women; Children and Loitering Men was originally held at The Photographers’ Gallery, London in 2015. You can read my review of the the exhibition here. The exhibition was one of the most well visited at the gallery, and cemented Shirley Baker’s reputation as a pivotal figure in the British photographic post-war scene. Baker befriended her subjects over many weeks as she wandered the crumbling streets, allowing her work to tell a tale of Manchester’s people; this collection is not just recording the city’s architecture with its rotting streets and bombed out houses but more importantly a tale of poverty, community and survival.

Women, Children; and Loitering Men

Manchester Art Gallery

Friday 19 May 2017–Monday 28 August 2017

Terraced house 1960s by Shirley Baker

What do you think?