Inside scoop

All the gems from the new Centre for British Photography
By Lara Monro | Art | 17 January 2023

‘Children of the Gorbals (Gorbal Boys)’, 1948
 © Bert Hardy Estate

Set to open its doors for the first time in late January, The Centre for British Photography is debuting two exhibitions and five In Focus Spotlights on British photographers to mark the occasion.

A charitable organisation founded by gallerist and philanthropist, James Hyman, the 8000 sq. ft. space located across three floors will present self-generated exhibitions –all free to the public – alongside shows led by independent curators and organisations. Showcasing images from the Hyman Collection, the private collection of Claire and James Hyman is widely considered one of the world’s major archives of British photography.

Focusing on works spanning the 1900s to present day from artists who were either born and raised in the UK or immigrated to the country, a rich cultural tapestry is formed. Hyman tells us, “We hope that through this initial showcase to make a home for British photography we can, in the long run, develop an independent centre that is self-sustaining with a dedicated National Collection and public programme.”

David Hockney by Bill Brandt, 1980, courtesy of Bill Brandt Archive Ltd

Headstrong: Women and Empowerment and Images of the English at Home will headline the exhibitions while photographers Heather Agyepong, Natasha Caruana, Jo Spence, Andrew Bruce and Anna Fox form the five In Focus displays. Headstrong celebrates the work of living photographers based in Britain, examining women who have made work concerned with how they are represented, struggles in their everyday lives and what it means to embrace diversities in order to challenge the conservative order of a patriarchal society.

Photographer and curator at Fastforward, Anna Fox, explains: “Fast Forward and Centre for British Photography are celebrating the work of women artists and photographers who are breaking the mould, proposing new ideas and inventing new identities.

This exhibition foregrounds artists and photographers who have been using self-portraiture as a tool to crack open the oppressive, often punishing nature of patriarchy. From exposing cyberbullies to exploring the multiplicity of female identity, these portraits reinvent outdated concepts of how we should behave, how we should be and what we can become. The work speaks back to the tedious drone of misogynist culture and proposes new ways of being and understanding.”

Rainbow Sisters, a group of LGBTQ+ women who are in the process of seeking, or have been granted, asylum in the UK will be included in the show alongside the likes of Shirin Fathi, Joy Gregory, Sarah Maple and Trish Morrisey. 

‘Sensory Deprivation’ by Juno Calypso, 2016

Meanwhile, English at Home will feature over 150 photos from defining photographers such as Bill Brandt, Kurt Hutton, Bert Hardy, Martin Parr, Anna Fox, and Richard Bilingham. The exhibition takes its title from Brandt’s first book published in 1935, The English at Home and is arguably one of the most important 20th-century photographic publications. To understand contemporary depictions of the home, much can be learned from exploring a lineage which begins with Bill Brandt and travels through his crucial years at Picture Post magazine, and onto the conceptual strategies of photographers since the 1970s.

Last year, photographer Natasha Caruana talked us through a snapshot of her sprawling archive and now her brilliant series Fairy Tale for Sale will exhibit as one of the In Focus displays. Extending her practice-based research focusing on narratives of love, betrayal, and fantasy, Fairy Tale for Sale visualises the aspirations of a wedding day while providing a snapshot of discarded moments and insight into how a bride sees themselves after the climax of the big day. Using found imagery to investigate the typology of wedding photographs, Caruana aims to develop a strong political narrative revealing some of the subtle control mechanisms affecting women in contemporary western society. The questions explored in the collection and organisation of the work include how to mediate found images in an ethical way, and how to expand the definition of documentary photography. Dissecting the dichotomy of a private versus public world, and questioning what is truly personal. 

The Centre for British Photography opens to the public on January 26th, more info here


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