Inside the Chris Killip exhibition featuring photos of working class life in the North East

The Chris Killip exhibition, currently on display in London, will come to The Baltic, Gateshead, next spring. Credit: Chris Killip Photography Trust/Martin Parr Foundation

An exhibition of photographs taken by a photographer best-known for capturing the lives of working-class people in the North East has received rounds of praise from visitors.

Chris Killip: Retrospective is on display in London, featuring images from across the North East, including ones taken during the late photographer's time living in a caravan at the harsh industrialised beach of Lynemouth, Northumberland, as well as previously unseen pictures of workers during the miners' strike.

The Lynemouth pictures, known as the Seacoal images, show the brutal reality of life there in the 1980s.

Gordon in the water, Seacoal Beach, Lynemouth, 1983. Credit: Chris Killip Photography Trust/Martin Parr Foundation

When Mr Killip first visited there to take photographs, he was punched in the face, according to his son Matthew Killip.

"It took him a long time to get in with the Seacolers. They had no idea who he was and he faced violence the first time he tried to photograph them," he told ITV Tyne Tees.

Mr Killip later met a Seacoaler who remembered him at Appleby Horse Fair and he re-introduced the photographer to the community. He moved into a caravan and began documenting their lives.

The exhibition's co-curator Tracy Marshall-Grant said visitors have been loving the exhibition - with more praise still to come when the exhibition comes to The Baltic in Gateshead in May 2023.

Mrs Marshall-Grant said: "The reactions from the photography world have been 'this is fantastic, this must have been an absolute joy to work through, you are so lucky you had a chance to sit through and spend time with the archive.'

"They are full of admiration for the work and admiration for the pictures in the way they capture people. I think when we go to the Baltic it will be much more about the people and how they recognise themselves."

Matthew said his father would be "delighted" with the exhibition coming to the North East.

He said: "The area was hugely significant to Chris. I believe that only someone who loved the area could have photographed people like that. And the people of the region will be able to see that."

Youth on wall, Jarrow, Tyneside, 1975. Credit: Chris Killip Photography Trust/Martin Parr Foundation

The photographs earned Mr Killip, originally from the Isle of Man, a reputation as one of the most influential figures in British photography.

But he was keen to point out the photographs "didn't belong to him", his son told ITV Tyne Tees.

He said: "When Chris was talking about these photos as his photographs, he said they weren't just his, but belong to the people that are in them. They belong to them.

"That's why he would be really very happy about the pictures going back to the people where they belong. And Chris also kept in touch with the people he took photographs of - right until his death, really."

Family on a Sunday walk, Skinningrove, 1982. Credit: Chris Killip Photography Trust/Martin Parr Foundation

The village of Skinningrove in Redcar and Cleveland was tight-knit in the 1980s when the photographer first visited.

Similar to the Seacolers, he earned his place within the community and got to know the people he was photographing.

Ms Marshall-Grant said: "Chris also gave them work as well. Whenever Chris printed one of his zines or books, they were tasked.

"They would go and hand those out and get a bit of money for it. He was very connected back to the community, and a key thing is he wasn't just taking pictures of subjects or a time.

"He embedded himself with the people for a time and became with them and keep re-visiting."

Helen and her Hula-hoop, Seacoal Camp, Lynemouth, Northumbria, 1984. Credit: Chris Killip Photography Trust/Martin Parr Foundation

The photographs have a piercing focus on communities in tough economic times.

It is why Ms Marshall-Grant feels the exhibition is still important - even now.

She said: "Any photography that captures a time and its stark reality and does it with the time and respect that Chris' work does is important, and what makes his so significant is that he did that and did it in an area that he wasn't from.

"He found a connection with the people there and it shone through just as if he'd lived and breathed and been from there.

"He was taking pictures of people doing their way of surviving."

‘Boo’ on a horse, Seacoal Camp, Lynemouth, Northumbria, 1984. Credit: Chris Killip Photography Trust/Martin Parr Foundation

The exhibition at The Photographers Gallery in London shows Mr Killip's pictures from across the North East, with previously unseen photos of workers during the miners' strike on display.

It will come to Gateshead's Baltic next year.


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