Suggested Research – Chris Steele-Perkins

Chris Steele-Perkins is a Magnum photographer, who in 2013 was commissioned, along with several others to document contemporary British manufacturing. Questions were being raised about the strength of western economies within the worldwide market and they wanted an exploration of the condition of Britain’s manufacturing future.

Russell suggested Chris Steele-Perkins as I was at the time considering photographing local shops/businesses, and it provided an insight as to how I could approach the task.

The completed project was called Open for Business with the new commissions building ‘on this photographic history of recording manufacturing and create a contemporary British archive, to be gifted to some of the UK’s most significant collections.’

Magnum’s UK photographers, Stuart Franklin, David Hurn, Peter Marlow, Martin Parr, Mark Power and Chris Steele-Perkins, alongside three international photographers Alessandra Sanguinetti (Argentina),Bruce Gilden and Jonas Bendiksen (Norway) have visited over one hundred workplaces across the UK; from one-man businesses to FTSE 100 companies.


These few examples show how he incorporated humour into his images, the props of their trade and different compositional elements. I liked his use of symmetry, levels and textures to vary what could have been extremely ‘samey’ industrial work portraits.

Although I did not eventually use this idea I tried to incorporate some of his ideas and techniques into my assignment one, such as the importance of the props to show my participation with the students, what our ‘end product’ is.

Steele-Perkins has had a varied career and popped up later in the coursework due to his involvement in EXIT. Having been given him as suggested research I already had a little background information which was handy.

He has given various interviews over the years with regards to his background and interest in the subjects he captures from Teddy Boys, to the Taliban to Centenarian’s…

 

Despite researching solely for assignment one due to his various projects and relevance to the entire course due to using both colour and black and white, his narrative style etc he is probably a photographer who I will reference on multiple occasions.

He is someone who has swapped from B&W to colour.

[in the 1980’s]At the time I was shooting in black and white unless an assignment specifically asked for colour. It wasn’t until the 1980s that I decided to get to grips with colour and start owning it, rather than feeling resentful that I was made to do it. Nowadays I shoot in colour all the time.

That’s it for now…I may add more….

http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/chris-steele-perkins-magnum-interview

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/photography/8278879/Chris-Steele-Perkins-QandA.html

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/aug/28/chris-steele-perkins-my-best-shot-wolverhampton-reggae-club

https://pro.magnumphotos.com/CS.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&ERID=24KL53Z6VT&POPUPIID=2S5RYDYGZO4S&POPUPPN=27

Legacy documentary for social change -Survival Programmes

Survival Programmes in Britain’s Inner Cities was a book published in 1982 by three photographers: Nicholas Battye, Chris Steele-Perkins and Paul Trevor.

Synopsis:

Survival Programmes comprises photographs (all black and white), interview transcripts, drafts and other materials relating to the book Survival Programmes by the Exit Photography Group (Nicholas Battye / Chris Steele-Perkins / Paul Trevor). The photographs and interviews were made between 1974 and 1979, and record life in Britain’s inner urban areas in the 1970s. ‘Survival Programmes’ was a Gulbenkian funded project to document inner city environments and lives in the later 1970s. The original photographs were used in a travelling exhibition, and are kept by the Side Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Review by the publisher:

Survival Programmes presents simply and vividly the existing situation in Britain’s inner cities. It documents the scale and complexity of inner city deprivation–and the different responses to it–in London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow, and Belfast. The experience is communicated in the form of photographic and verbal record. The photographs provide a narrative sequence and can be read independently of the text, which is from tape-recordings of people speaking from their own experience. The two narratives develop independently yet in parallel. The unfolding relationship of image and text is complex, uneven, revealing and open to many different interpretations.

Exercise read the article ‘Survival Programmes’ in Eight magazine (V5N1, June 2006)

In June 2006 the book Survival Programmes in Britain’s Inner Cities celebrated its 25th anniversary since publication, making it now 35 years old and, in so many ways it is still relevant to today’s society and today’s photographers. The British Library, according to the article, was going to launch a Survival Programmes Archive and this I feel is important as we need to look back to move forward, as recognised by Elizabeth McCausland, the progress of documentary photography ‘lies in the history of other movements in photography.'(1939) Although not a different movement we have to study what went before in order to learn and move on, or understand how and why things are considered to be documentary.

When they formed Exit in 1974, all three men were either squatting or sofa surfing, experiencing first hand the deprivations and problems being faced by generations and impoverished neighbourhoods across the board. Thus they certainly fulfilled the criteria of being immersed within the situation they wanted to capture and narrate. They were also following in the tradition of ‘investigators[who] concentrated on describing the conditions or work and housing and presented a picture of people enduring lives of great hardship…’ (Wells. 1997, p.72)

Sadly, many of the issues they ‘grappled’ with are still prevalent today: race, religion, class and justice still rear their ugly heads, with many of these issues thrust to the fore due to Brexit and the high running emotions with regards to immigration and refugee status. All in all a ‘sorry testament to how little things have changed.’

Unlike the early work that has been mentioned, such as the FSA and Lewis Hine, their images are said to not promote the need for social change, rather they instill a mood not of pity ‘but of outrage.’ Some of the layout of the book can be seen on Chris Steele-Perkins webpage.

Wells also posited that they were ‘more concerned with exploring class subjectivity than with  [dicovering] the ‘facts’.’ (1997)

‘The photographs were sequenced from community through frustration into anger in 4 chapters called Growth, Promise, Welfare and Reaction…The format of the book was simple, one photograph on the right side of the page and interview text on the left.’

Each section within the magazine spread had its own subtitle: In Among it All, Written Off, A Tale, The Finest Country in The World. These I found to be clever titles, either direct quotes or a play on words from the interviewees. Like the review by the publisher says the text is just as important as the images with ‘the two narratives’ developing independently ‘yet in parallel.’ Hearing the voices and concerns of the residents add weight to the images being viewed.

Being shot in B&W was a creative as well as a financial decision, as revealed in this article by Chris Steele-Perkins; they processed their own films at home. Viewing the images on line it is difficult to see the finer details and subtly within the frames. They all appear to be grainy and the majority of the photographs I have seen do paint a depressing picture of the era. Without having colour images to compare and contrast it is difficult to say if colour images would appear as stark and emotive, although I doubt it. B&W does tend to create a certain atmosphere.

Research

McCausland, E. (1939) Documentary Photography

Steele-Perkins, C. (2014) Survival programmes – book preview. Available at: http://www.chrissteeleperkins.com/books/survival-programmes.html (Accessed: 6 December 2016).

Trevor, P. (2014) Ideas series: Exit photography group – | Photoworks. Available at: https://photoworks.org.uk/exit-photography-group/ (Accessed: 6 December 2016).

Wells, L. (ed.) (1997) Photography: A critical introduction. London: Routledge.

(No Date) Available at: http://www.oca-student.com/resource-type/foto851survivalprogrammes (Accessed: 6 December 2016).