Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Deutsche Borse Photography Prize 2013 - Chris Killip

Chris Killip - What Happened - Great Britain 1970 - 1990

The second nominee that I viewed at the Deutsche Borse prize was Chris Killip. His work was exhibited on the same floor of the Photographers Gallery as Mishka Henner. Walking through from Henner's contemporary work in colour to Killip's B&W documentary images was quite a shock.

Killip's work fits into the traditional image of documentary before a more conceptual approach started to make inroads into the genre. The images, taken in the north of England from 1970-1990, showed how the people lived through a disintegrating industrial economy. They conveyed grim poverty, despair, but also signs of change and hope too. Whilst there was bleakness, humanistic qualities also shone through in some of the portraits. "Boo and his Rabbit" and "Queens Silver Jubilee" being just two that balanced out the sequence. Having lived through the same time period I was struck by how dated the images looked. To me it doesn't seem that long ago but some of the subject matter could have been more like a hundred years past.

These images sit in the traditional style of documentary - more connected to Tony Ray-Jones and Walker Evans than Martin Parr or William Egglestone who were working in parallel in the same time frame. There is nothing wrong with that. I enjoyed analysing them all the same and the technique and process fits the subject matter very well. All the same, the difference between Henner and Killip in the gallery, juxtaposed side by side, was striking.

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