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You are in: Cumbria > Entertainment > Visual Arts > No Such Thing as Society

No Such Thing as Society

Tullie House shows off the changing face of Britain as seen through the lenses of the foremost photo-journalists working today.

British society, from the late 1960s until the late 1980s, was in a state of unrest and transition, witnessing the effects of de-industrialisation and the rise of Thatcherism, the miners’ strikes and conflict in Northern Ireland as well as radical shifts in the structure of society itself.

No Such Thing as Society serves as a witness to these times, bringing together 150 photographs by 33 documentary photographers among them Keith Arnatt, Victor Burgin, Peter Fraser, Paul Graham, Brian Griffin, Chris Killip, Martin Parr, Tony Ray-Jones, Chris Steele-Perkins, Graham Smith and Homer Sykes.

John Payne, aged 12, with two friends

Daniel Meadows: Portsmouth: John Payne, aged 12, with two friends and his pigeon, Chequer, 26 April 1974. Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre. Copyright the artist, 2007.

The exhibition takes its name from the famous Margaret Thatcher statement: “...society? There is no such thing. There are individual men and women and there are families.”
It starts at the end of the 1960s, a time when Pop Art had cemented photography’s place in contemporary culture. At this moment the Arts Council of Great Britain began to commission and collect documentary photography, capturing the changing times. The British Council continued this trend in the early ‘80s, collecting new colour photography of the decade’s unique social scene. No Such Thing as Society is the first collaboration between the British Council and Arts Council Collections.

Beauty Contest, Southport, 1967

Tony Ray-Jones: Beauty Contest, Southport, 1967. British Council Collection, London. Copyright the artist, 2007.

The show is divided chronologically into six themes, which reflect contrasting aspects of society at the time.

Exhibition details

Photography in Britain 1967-1987, From the British Council and Arts Council Collection.
10 May – 13 July 2008 - Tullie House Art Gallery.

Art Gallery Opening Times
10am – 5pm Monday – Saturday, 12pm – 5pm Sunday (From 1 July, Sunday hours 11am – 5pm)

  • A Social Carnival (1967-75) shows the British at play from all points of the class spectrum, in sea-front beauty contests, Maypole dances, and at the races at Ascot.
  • Portrait and Place (1973-77) is a record of differences in society in the 1970s, from industrial workers to representatives of youth culture.
  • Ethnicity, Community and Street (1972-80) explores the nation’s sense of place and belonging during this period, documenting race tensions through National Front racist graffiti and in contrast, an image of a proud Asian matriarch at her home in Birmingham.
  • The changing face of British society is captured in Picturing the Civic Crisis (1976-81) from houses bedecked with Union Jacks at the Queen’s Silver Jubilee to women campaigning against domestic abuse.
  • Wastelands (1976-82) is a stark look at industrial change, where once thriving communities were left to decay.
  • Finally Society in Colour (1984-87) is a simultaneously bleak and joyous view of life in Thatcherite Britain, from the seaside sunbathers scrabbling for their hot dogs to the drab colour and cold expanses of a DHSS waiting room.
Emma’s Wedding

David Butterworth:  Emma’s Wedding. Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre. Copyright the artist, 2007.

Curated by David Alan Mellor, Professor of Art History at the University of Sussex, No Such Thing as Society outlines a history of the development of photography in Britain during this era for the first time.

last updated: 24/04/2008 at 14:59
created: 24/04/2008

You are in: Cumbria > Entertainment > Visual Arts > No Such Thing as Society

Exhibition artists

Keith Arnatt, John Benton-Harris, Ian Berry, Derek Boshier, Victor Burgin, Vanley Burke, David Butterworth, Ian Dobbie, Tarik Chawdry, David Chadwick, John Davies, Peter Fraser, Paul Graham, Brian Griffin, Alexis Hunter, Philip Jones-Griffiths, Chris Killip, Bob Long, Markéta Luskačová, Peter Marlow, Ron McCormick,  Daniel Meadows, Peter Mitchell, Tish Murtha, Martin Parr, Gilles Peress,  Tony Ray-Jones, Jergen Schadeberg, Graham Smith, Chris Steele-Perkins, Paul Trevor, Homer Sykes and Christine Voge.

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