I will be exhibiting some prints in the group show An Ideal for Living: Photographing Class, Culture and Identity in Modern Britain, exhibited at Beetles&Huxley gallery in London.

The exhibition runs: 27 July – 17 September 2016

An Ideal for Living uses photography from the 1920s to the present day to examine perceptions of class, custom and identity in modern Britain. A timely consideration of what it means to be British, the exhibition will draw on the work of 28 diverse photographers to present the habits, styles and routines, which encapsulate British identity through social aspiration, political protest and counter-culture.

The earliest photographs in the exhibition are Bill Brandt’s and E.O. Hoppé’s studies of the interwar period. These images show the idiosyncrasies of the British class at this time, depicting miners, maids and gentlemen in their homes, on the streets, at work and leisure. Another early photograph is Henri Cartier-Bresson’s sardonic documentation of the crowds during the coronation of King George VI in 1937.

The post-war period is represented by Frank Habicht’s photographs showing the spirit on the 1960s, a period when libertarian attitudes were expressed through fashion, design and political activism. John Bulmer’s images of the same time provide a contrasting view of this decade with photographs of working class communities in the north of England and Charlie Phillips’ photographs document the integration of black communities into British towns and cities. Also from this period, Bruce Davidson’s photographs of nannies in Hyde Park and mining communities in Wales show the continuation of British traditions in the 1960s.

The political unrest and social divides of the 1970s and 1980s are represented by Syd Shelton’s images of the Battle of Lewisham in 1977, Philip Jones Griffith’s photograph of a young soldier in Northern Island, Neil Libbert’s reportage of the 1981 Brixton riots, the bleakly cinematic images of Glasgow by Raymond Depardon and Richard Billingham’s hard-hitting series Ray’s A Laugh. The emergence of a defined youth culture and identity is shown through Derek Ridgers iconic photographs of skinheads and punks contrasted with Jürgen Schadeberg’s photographs at the other end of the spectrum of unruly students at a May Ball in Cambridge. These images are juxtaposed with Martin Parr and Peter Dench’s wry and humorous studies of the British at leisure in the same period.

The most recent work in the exhibition is by Anna Fox, James Morris and Simon Roberts whose work collectively explores social identity in contemporary Britain through photographs of the modern British environment, in the countryside and city.

Phil Coomes, Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Britain”s obsession with the coast is an understandable one given its geography and naval history, yet the coast also played an important part in the country”s social history.

It was here that millions of workers first enjoyed time away from the tough working conditions of Victorian towns, and any self-respecting resort would require one key ingredient, a pier. Their popularity lasted well into the middle of the last century, but since then, many have struggled to survive the changing holiday habits of the nation, and in some cases natural disasters.

Yet in some way these structures jutting out into the ocean reflect the nation”s one-time desire to spread its influence, for good or ill, around the globe. Today those that still stand have mixed fortunes, with some like Ryde Pier reborn and others still seeking regeneration.

Photographer Simon Roberts has spent the past three years creating a comprehensive survey of Britain”s piers, depicting all 58 surviving pleasure piers along with a handful of those lost in photographs marking where a pier once stood.

Robert”s approach is in a similar vein to his previous work We English, The Election Project and of course XXX Olympiad, shooting on large format cameras to create a formal record. Within the collection are one or two that have a more journalistic feel, a link back to his previous life as a press photographer.

Roberts studied Human Geography at the University of Sheffield prior to taking the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) course in press photography, the two disciplines now seeming to mesh well and drive his work forward.

His projects come at an important time for the country and his long term immersion in the subject is to be admired.

Looking back at a piece we ran by Roberts in 2003 about a you realise how much of a journey he has been on. Not in terms of miles travelled, though his work has encompassed the Middle East, a year in Russia and of course the US amongst others, but in terms of developing his own voice through his images.

That”s not something you can do overnight. And though the beauty of these pictures can only really be experienced first hand as large prints on the wall, the smallish reproductions here do offer a glimpse of the eye and brain behind them.

You can see the full article here along with two video clips on location.

Image: Kenneth Rowntree (1915-1997) Underbank Farm, Woodlands, Ashdale, Derbyshire. 1940

This symposium at the V&A is a fantastic opportunity to explore the complex presence of the past, national identity, taste and nostalgia in relation to the Recording Britain collection of water colours and drawings produced at the start of World War II with both art historians and practicing artists. Speakers include Patrick Wright, David Heathcote, and artists Ingrid Pollard, Abigail Reynolds, Simon Roberts and Paul Scott. At the outbreak of the Second World War an ambitious scheme was set up to employ artists on the home front. The result was a collection of more than 1500 watercolours and drawings that make up a fascinating record of British lives and landscapes at a time of imminent change. Recording Britain was the brainchild of Sir Kenneth Clark, who saw it as an extension of the Official War Artist scheme. By choosing watercolour painting as the medium of record, Clark hoped that the scheme would also help to preserve this characteristic English art form – you can find out more about the scheme here.