Women, Children and Loitering Men
17 Jul - 20 Sep 2015
Manchester, 1968 © Shirley Baker Estate Courtesy of Mary Evans Picture Library
Manchester, 1967 © Shirley Baker Estate Courtesy of Mary Evans Picture Library
Hulme, 1965 © Shirley Baker Estate Courtesy of the Shirley Baker Estate
Hulme, July 1965 © Shirley Baker Estate Courtesy of the Shirley Baker Estate
Hulme, May 1965 © Shirley Baker Estate Courtesy of the Shirley Baker Estate
Manchester, 1964 © Shirley Baker Estate Courtesy of Mary Evans Picture Library
Near Upper Brook St, Manchester, 1964 © Shirley Baker Estate Courtesy of Mary Evans Picture Library
This exhibition is a rare chance to see the work of social documentary photographer Shirley Baker, and a portrait of the urban decline of late twentieth century Britain.
It focuses on Baker's depictions of the urban clearance programmes of inner-city Manchester and Salford during 1961 - 1981 and the work documents what Baker saw as the needless destruction of working class communities.
Listen to a specially commissioned soundscore by composer Derek Nisbet featuring Shirley Baker interviewed by Val Williams, 1992, Oral History of British Photography © British Library, catalogue reference C459/20
Despite being the only woman practicing street photography in Britain at the time, Shirley Baker’s humanist documentary work received little attention throughout her sixty-five year career.
She claimed never to have posed her pictures, an action inimical to her documentarist ideals, yet her multi-layered images and exacting compositions imply dwelling on a scene until each element falls into place. Her visual puns, often the result of juxtaposing ‘chance’ elements in her field of vision, result in a humour and everyday surrealism that would have eluded most passers-by.
Objects and scenes take on significance beyond their literal appearance. Half demolished walls and peeling wallpaper resound with lives once lived. Her meticulous focus on graffiti brings the plain brickwork to life and generates backdrops for scenarios in which her ordinary subjects, in their functional environments, become momentarily extraordinary.
This exhibition includes previously unseen colour photographs by Baker alongside black and white images and ephemera such as magazine spreads, contact sheets and various sketches.
Watch a short film from the BFI's Britain on Film Archive, which gives a glimpse of Salford in the 1960s as Baker would have witnessed it.
Women and Children; and Loitering Men (The Photographers’ Gallery, 2015) features a foreword by Professor Griselda Pollock and a new short story by author Jackie Kay. This book is sold out with a second edition due the week starting 24 August available to pre-order from the Bookshop.
With thanks to Arts Council England, Mary Evans Picture Library, Manchester School of Art (Manchester Metropolitan University), Symon and Mary Elliott and the Shirley Baker Estate for their invaluable support.
Curated by Anna Douglas
Free entry – before 12:00
Exhibition Day Pass – £3/£2.50 Concs
Advance Booking Online – £2.50/£2.00 Concs
‘Street photography of this period can often stray down a nostalgic path. But Baker’s photography provides an honest and entertaining platform from which to reflect on a seemingly authentic version of our past.’