An essential figure in post-war photography, since his debut in the 1970s Chris Killip has been forging a new path in documentary photography: the depiction of the working classes, in the midst of the dismantling of the industry that had created and maintained them since the beginning of the 19th century.
His purpose is not to show historical experience but rather real life in Northern England between 1968 and 2004. The photography of Chris Killip (Douglas, Isle of Man, 1946) finds inspiration in the work of 1930s photographers, such as Paul Strand, Walker Evans, Bill Brandt and August Sander, and at the same time it reflects the influence of the authors who transformed the genre of documentary photography following World War II. Killip worked as an assistant to advertising photographers until the end of the 1960s but in the 1970s he began his own career as an independent photographer, spending long periods in different parts of North East England.
It was not until the 1980s that a new generation of photographers interested in political and social issues began to become relevant on the British photography scene. These young photographers considered their surroundings and the country's situation to be an essential theme and they found in the camera an instrument with which to promote social change, taking up once again the vocation shown by photography in the 1930s. With the arrival of photography as a form of artistic expression the medium began to receive more attention in galleries and public institutions. It gradually entered a realm beyond that of commercial activity, and it did so accompanied by an infrastructure that gave access to more cultural audiences and also to a market for its creations.
With a selection of over one hundred photographs taken between 1968 and 2004, this exhibition gives viewers a look at Killip's influential but not very well-known work, which starting in the 1960s forged a new path in documentary photography, a path that would later be followed by authors such as Martin Parr, Tom Wood and Paul Graham. Killip won the Henri Cartier Bresson international photography award in 1989 and has taught at Harvard University since 1991. With his own photography and the shows he curated between 1976 and 1984 at Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s Side Gallery, of which he was co-founder and director, Killip's contributions have shaped the photographic culture of the 1970s and 1980s.