Britain during The Thatcher years saw a decline in industrial production as well as a rising population of new wealth. Some people were left poor, hopeless, and on the fringes while others found themselves enjoying pleasures they newly discovered. The three photographers presented at the Rose Gallery, Chris Killip, Graham Smith, and Martin Parr, attempted to record this moment in time, each in a different way, and their records offer much to digest.
Chris Killip's work might be seen in the tradition of Robert Frank or Walker Evans, a journalistic mode which tried to capture the essence and poetry of poverty and of tough ways of life, while Graham Smith shows a nighttime world of awkward advances, sloppy romantic exchanges, and depressing moments of resignation. Smith photographed mostly his friends and family moving from pub to pub in a world with a lack of jobs or direction. Aesthetically, Smith's photos recall Weegee, but perhaps the diarist spirit of these works might better be described in terms of photographers that followed in the 80's and 90's, namely Wolfgang Tillmans and Nan Goldin.
Martin Parr is perhaps the most well known of the three, saturating his snapshots with an excess of color. He takes a different approach, choosing to capture Britain's newly wealthy at play. Any attempt on the part of Parr's subjects at elegance or refinement comes across pathetic and slightly silly, and though Parr's compositions seem like snapshots, they usually come with a deeper, conceptual angle.
- Ed Schad
(*Images, from top to bottom: Graham Smith, Three From Britain: Chris Killip, Martin Parr & Graham Smith, March 8 - May 30, 2008; Rose Gallery, Thirty Eight Bastard Years on the Furnace Front Mess Room for No. 4 and No. 5 Furnaces,
Clay Lane, South Bank, Middlesbrough, 1983, Silver gelatin print, 19 x 22 1/2 in, © Graham Smith, Courtesy Rose Gallery. Chris Killip, Three From Britain: Chris Killip, Martin Parr & Graham Smith, March 8 - May 30, 2008; Rose Gallery, Bever, Skinningrove, 1981, Silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 in, © Chris Killip, Courtesy Rose Gallery. Martin Parr, Three From Britain: Chris Killip, Martin Parr & Graham Smith, March 8 - May 30, 2008; Rose Gallery, Newport, 1988, Chromogenic print, 20 x 24 in, © Martin Parr, Courtesy Rose Gallery.)