Spotlight: Exhibition

By The Sea: Photographs from the North East

Whitley Bay, 1978 © Markéta Luskačová

“Life was good, and perhaps my happiness was reflected in the way I photographed there,” says Markéta Luskačová, as she presents her work from the late 1970s in a new exhibition and book

Markéta Luskačová first visited the North East of England in 1976, and quickly fell in love with the soft sands and craggy cliffs of Whitley Bay, a seaside town just eight miles east of Newcastle. “I liked the people in the North East, I liked their faces. The sense of community is so strong there,” says the Czech photographer, who first travelled to the area  to visit photographer Chris Killip, who was living and working in Newcastle at the time. 

Two years later, Luskačová was invited by Newcastle-based film and photography collective Amberto photograph the North East, alongside Martine Franck, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Paul Caponigro. She readily returned to the area, and now, over two decades later, her long-forgotten body of work will be exhibited at the Martin Parr Foundation, and published as a photobook.

Born in Prague in 1944, Luskačová studied Sociology of Culture at Charles University,Prague, where she began using photography as an illustrative tool in her graduate thesis on religion in Slovakia. Luskačová then completed a postgraduate course in photography at Prague FAMU, returning to Slovakia during the summer holidays to work on her best-known body of work Pilgrims (1966-1969). Following the invasion of the Czech Republic in 1968, the photographer’s professional and private life in Prague became difficult. “I felt I had to leave,” says Luskačová, who has been living in London since 1975.

South Shields, 1978 © Markéta Luskačová
Whitley Bay, 1978 © Markéta Luskačová
Whitley Bay, 1978 © Markéta Luskačová

Many of Luskačová’s subjects from Whitley Bay are set against the harsh weather of the area, which, far from detracting from her depiction of the joy of the community and the memories she built while working in it, contributes to the jubilant atmosphere of the images. Luskačová documents families huddling over hot drinks as they shelter from the bitter wind, and children who fearlessly launch themselves into piles of soft sand, running loops around teenage couples sauntering along the shore.

“I like to think that I photographed what was there,” says Luskačová. “However, the Norwegian photographer Morten Krongvolt once told me, ‘We do not photograph things the way they are, we photograph them the way we are’.” When she shot the series, Luskačová was a new mother to a one-year-old son. “I got the chance to photograph the seaside, and that year I was a nominee of Magnum. Life was good, and perhaps my happiness was reflected in the way I photographed there.”

By the Sea: Photographs from the North East, 1976-1980 by Markéta Luskačová is published by RRB Photobooks to coincide with an exhibition at the Martin Parr Foundation from 21 August to 05 October 2019. 

Whitley Bay, 1980 © Markéta Luskačová
Whitley Bay, 1978 © Markéta Luskačová
Whitley Bay, 1978 © Markéta Luskačová

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