Exercise : Changing face of Britain

Read Brett Roger’s introduction to the online gallery of Documentary Dilemmas

Follow the ‘Glossary’ link

It might be useful to read the Arts Council document Changing Britain as a brief contextual background to Documentary Dilemmas.

Core resources :ChangingBritain.pdf

Documentary, initially used as a term for moving pictures in the 1920’s , has a long tradition of using photography to authentically represent real life situations . Photographers such as Bill Brandt –see my earlier notes HERE highlighted social inequality . Whilst this remained a topic explored by a new breed of photographers political change in the 1970’s meant they no longer wanted to visually communicate “British courage and determination in the face of adversity” ( ChangingBritain.pdf. p.g 5 ) . Furthermore in 1973 the Arts Council began to build up a photography collection by buying and commissioning photographic works giving new photographers an outlet for their work.

New milestones of documentary

Look at the work of the photographers highlighted and others.

Paul Graham b1956

Beyond Caring 1984-5

At the start of the 18980’s Graham was one of the initial photographers to move away from traditional B&W documentary photography. Funded by the Greater London Council his undercover images of gloomy unemployment offices lit by harsh fluorescent strip light reflect the depressing political climate of the time. By 1982 the unemployment figures peaked at over 3 million , unprecedented since the 1930’s , the social isolation created by the loss of traditional working class industries is made quite apparent by the insular and introverted stance and lack of eye contact between the hapless ‘clients’ of the benefits system.

Anna Fox b1961

Her subject matter is the ordinary and the everyday , but she approaches it with an artist’s eye for the absurd and the revealing” (O’Hagan 2014 theguardian.com)

Her website is fascinating and I find the images compelling , and at times slightly grotesque , surreal and thought provoking.

Much of her work is autobiographical , whilst her father was ill she kept a notebook recording his verbal outbursts whilst taking photographs of her mother’s cupboards. Designed as a book My Mother’s Cupboards and my Fathers Word’s the combination of text and imagery conveys a sense of absurdity and Fox herself describes it as “quite an evil book” (youtube) . The book is small with a pink cover , something that can be easily slipped into a pocket or handbag. Despite being deeply personal the narrative is one people can identify with.

A critical examination of working life during Thatcherism. Sardonic captions accompany the colour photographs of London offices in the 1980’s.

Paul Reas b1955

The growth of consumerism and the loss of traditional industry changed the dynamic of British society . Shot in colour Reas’s images of shoppers are frequently humorous but rather depressing. The bold flash lit images were shot “in colour because I was aware of the psychology of selling” ( Guardian.com) .

Photographers below see link to earlier notes I made:

Julien Germain


Chris Killip


Daniel Meadows


References / Bibliography 

Changing Britain Documentary Photography from the Arts Council Collection.
Core resources :ChangingBritain.pdf
Paul Graham 
Accessed 22/7/15
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Accessed 27/7/15
O’Hagan , S
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2 thoughts on “Exercise : Changing face of Britain

  1. selinawallace

    Hi Judy,
    Did you happen to take a copy of the Brett Rogers’ introduction when you did this exercise? It is no longer available on the website. If so, perhaps you could email me a copy? Thanks!! a.wall.cos at gmail.com


  2. Judy Bach Post author

    Hi Selina , sorry I only have the web link to the site that is now minus the introduction. I notice that other students who have done the exercise after me have also had the same problem .



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