20/20: Chris Killip/Graham Smith
11 October – 6 November 2022
Augusta Edwards Fine Art, Gallery 8, Cromwell Place, London
Opening Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 10am-6pm. Sunday 10am-4pm.
Photographs by Chris Killip and Graham Smith will be exhibited together in the UK for the first time in nearly 40 years. Killip and Smith are, in part, known for documenting both the people, and places affected by industrial decline in the North East England from the late 1970s to mid-1980s. Their work was last displayed together in the UK in a two-artist exhibition, ‘Another Country’, at the Serpentine Gallery, London, in 1985. This new exhibition was conceived in 2019 in collaboration with the photographers before Killip’s death. The exhibition was delayed due to the Covid pandemic but will now be shown as a tribute to their work and enduring friendship.
The black-and-white photographs in the exhibition document the North East in a period when heavy industry was still thriving, followed by an unforeseen and devastating collapse. Killip and Smith each selected 20 images for the exhibition taken between 1975 and 1987 in locations from Skinningrove, just south of Middlesbrough to Lynemouth, just north of Newcastle. The images depict an environment that for centuries has evolved from the industrial revolution. The photographers documented the individuals and communities whose lives depended on heavy industry, people who were facing a politically forced change to the landscape and their ways of life that had been settled for generations.
‘Late in life Chris stated that during his years in Newcastle, he unknowingly recorded the de-industrialisation of North East England.We both witnessed a rapid change to the industrial landscape and, in our own ways, recorded the transformation and aftermath.’
Killip and Smith first met in the summer of 1975 when their paths converged through Amber Films, a film and photography collective in Newcastle upon Tyne. A close and lifelong friendship followed and in 1985 they created their seminal exhibition, ‘Another Country’. In 1991, their works were shown alongside three other photographers at MoMA, New York, under the controversial title ‘British Photography from the Thatcher Years’. Following a backlash from some UK newspapers andthe effect it had on individuals and their community portrayed in Smith’s images, he stepped back from the public arena ofphotography. As a consequence, Smith’s work is not as widely known as it merits. Killip, who was teaching at Harvard University in this period, went on to exhibit widely and his work is the subject of a posthumous retrospective at The Photographers’ Gallery this autumn.
In a publication accompanying the exhibition, Smith discusses the process of creating the exhibition with Killip:
‘We talked about the conception of ‘Another Country’, its power and an aspect we later considered a failing of intent, albeit peripheral. But we also recognised how the passing of thirty four years had touched many of our pictures, some dating back to the early-seventies, with relevance beyond expectation.’
Chris Killip(1946 - 2020) was born in the Isle of Man. He left school at the age of 16 and went on to pursue a career in photography. In 1964 he was hired as the third assistant to photographer Adrian Flowers before working as a freelance assistant in London from 1966-69. After seeing his very first exhibition of photography at the MoMA, New York, he returned to photograph in the Isle of Man. New York gallery owner Lee Witkin, commissioned a limited edition portfolio of this work, paying for it in advance so that Killip could continue to photograph. In the following years, he was founding member, curator and advisor for Side Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and its Director from 1977-9. In 1989, he received the Henri Cartier Bresson Award and in 1991 he was invited to teach at Harvard University and became chair of the Visual and Environmental Studies Department in 1994 and retired in December 2017. Killip’s work has been the subject of numerous international solo exhibitions and is held by significant collections including MoMA, New York; George Eastman House; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Museum Folkwang, Essen; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Tate, London; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. A retrospective of his work will be on display at The Photographers’ Gallery from 7 October 2022 – 19 February 2023.
Graham Smith(1947) was born in Middlesbrough and left the town soon after finishing school. He broke a tradition established over three generations on the Smith side of his family, and did not follow his father into the iron and steel works.After four years away, Smith returned and, by chance, entered Middlesbrough College of Art where he discovered photography. On the strength of photographs taken in and around Middlesbrough, he was offered a place at the Royal College of Art and moved to London with his wife and young child. In 1973, the day after graduating, Smith and his family returned to the North and he joined Amber Films. Six years at Amber was a valuable experience that strengthened his commitment to documentary photography. From 1969 to 1990, Smith mostly photographed in the streets of South Bank and Middlesbrough, the steelworks and blast furnaces, the vast areas of industrial dereliction across Teesside, in the pubs used by his mother and father, and in pubs used by those who made the most of a life exposed to heavy industry in the North East, and by those who struggled to do so. Thirteen years after Smith stopped taking photographs, he started to write. His short essays offer a deeper understanding of the class and culture he was born into. Smith continues to write from his home in the North Pennines, Northumberland. He was married to his wife, Joyce, for fifty years. Her tolerance of an unconventional way of life, and her lifelong selfless support for Smith’s photography and writing were crucial. She died in 2019. They have three children, Gary, Jennifer and Sam.
Smith’s photographic work is featured in the permanent collections of MoMA, New York; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; San Francisco MoMA;the Archive of Modern Conflict, London; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; National Science and Media Museum, Bradford; Pier 24 Collection, San Francisco and The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
For further information click here: https://www.cromwellplace.com/whats-on/2020-chris-killipgraham-smith.