It’s the summer of 1976 in Weymouth, England, and 19-year-old Iain McKell is working the length of a busy seafront with two cameras strung round his neck. One is for his summer job, which is to sell portraits to sunburnt holidaymakers for £1.50 a print. The other is for a personal project, which now – 43 year later – is on its way to being published as a book, Private Reality: A Diary of a Teenage Boy.
Back then McKell was making photographs of everyone, not just sunburnt holidaymakers, but also friends, family, and the local people of Weymouth. His camera went everywhere, to the arcades, the caravan parks, down the pub, and even to the discos. His friends has no idea what he was doing – and neither did he, to some extent. “We were all partying and having fun, but somehow, I had my eye on the prize,” he says.
McKell is now half way through a month-long campaign on kickstarter to raise funds for the book, and plans to publish it this June in partnership with Dewi Lewis. In May some of the photographs will be shown in an exhibition curated by Val Williams and Karen Shepherdson, Seaside: Photographed at Turner Contemporary in Margate.
2019 marks a quarter of a century since Val Williams’ curated her seminal exhibition, Who’s looking at the family? at the Barbican in London. In photography, a lot has changed over 25 years, including the introduction of new technologies that have reshaped the way in which we make and consume images, and the changing definitions of what constitutes a photographer.
“On the one hand I thought it might be interesting to speculatively chart that development, but also to rethink notions of the family at the same time,” says Tim Clark, editor of 1000 words magazine and curator of this year’s Photo50 exhibition at London Art Fair. “The idea seemed to chime with a lot of people. I think that’s the key point about family, it’s a great unifying subject. Everyone can relate to it.”
“She believed that photography was an important form of visual communication that could stimulate discussions about real-life situations and captured accurate records of the world we live in,” Ella Murtha told BJP last year. “She was trying to force people to look at the truth and learn from it.” Born in South Shields in 1956, Tish Murtha left school aged just 16 and supported herself by selling hotdogs and working in a petrol station. She found her way into photography anyway, studying at the influential School of Documentary Photography at Newport College of Art, then returning to the North East to record the social deprivation she herself had suffered, as well as photographing in London.
Peter James was an instrumental figure in British photography, establishing an outstanding collection of photography at the Library of Birmingham over his 26-year career at the institution, and researching and curating exhibitions at the V&A, National Portrait Gallery, Somerset House, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Ikon Galley, the Library of Birmingham, and many more. He was also a modest and affable man, universally known as Pete and as at home over a curry as in a lecture hall delivering an academic paper. As Hilary Roberts, research curator at the Imperial War Museum, put it in a tribute on James’ Facebook page: “Pete has been a wonderful friend and exceptional colleague for more years than I can remember. His contribution to the world of photography cannot be overstated. It was a privilege to work with him and I will miss him more than I can say.”
Val Williams is co-curating a show on seaside photography for Turner Contemporary – and is asking photographers to submit their work for consideration. The exhibition will launch in Margate in summer 2019 before going on tour around the UK, and is being curated by Val Williams and Karen Shepherdson – director of the photography and the Archive Research Centre (PARC) at the London College of Communication, and director of the South East Archive of Seaside Photography respectively. They want to produce a collection which explores “how the medium of photography has both shaped and exposed the multiple layers of the seaside resort”, they say.