Contextual Research | Shirley Baker

Furthering my contextual research into street photographers in order to broaden an understanding of poetic images. I spent the morning looking at the work of Shirley Baker who was a Manchester/Salford based street photographer. Much of her work focussed on the inner city slum clearences of the 1960’s. She made photographs mainly of the women and children who inhabited these spaces at at time of change, where communities were uprooted to new purpose build spaces which encompassed large estates and tower blocks.

 Looking at her photographs I couldn’t help but notice that much of her work is very busy, often with multiple subjects and interesting objects and textures. All of which serve to produce a compelling narrative about what life was really like in this time of transition. Although very different, I see similarities in the work of Alex Webb who suggests about his work that he looks for compositions that stop just before chaos. When reviewing the work of Baker I observe a similar type of energy. The multiple narratives which are tied together within the time of transition of a place that is home. The black and white work of Baker is interesting and useful personally, as her understanding of composition is a little clearer to see in her black and white work. 

For someone such as myself going through a process of completely rethinking my approach to composition. Bakers work, and voice is clear. The energy which is where the enjoyment I take comes from is in no doubt as a result of Bakers understanding of composition and the black and white nature of her work has allowed further contempleation of how to address this element of photography within my own work. As suggested earlier, reviewing the work of Alex Webb is useful however his use of colour in conjunction with composition if first of all, brilliant, however when developing a critical contextualisation of my own practice. Baker’s work has been really useful. 

Furthermore, as the surfaces and strategies module moves into the idea of curatorship. I have identified Natasha Howes who is a curator based in Manchester. Further research will be conducted into her work and ethos will be useful going forward. 

Baker, S (2018) Without a Trace: Manchester and Salford in the 1960s. Gloucestershire. The History Press.

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