The Photographers' Gallery
6-18 Ramillies St
Thursday 10 September 2015
Why have we never been here before, Linda and I asked each other as we visited the three galleries of this remarkable space. It could not be much easier to get to: any westbound bus along Oxford Street has a stop called 'the Photographers' Gallery'; or you come up from Oxford Circus Underground, walk a few metres eastwards and plunge down the steps just by the big Boots. And there you are.
Also, entry is free before noon!
The name on the building has the second 'L' reversed, and this provides the house style for a lot of the signage.
Photography of the exhibited works is not permitted, for copyright reasons, but the website has a nice lot of images.
There are two exhibitions currently. On the first floor is 'Women, Children and Loitering Men,' photographs by Shirley Barker. Having studied photography at Manchester College of Technology, she was unable to get work at the (Manchester) Guardian because the trade Unions did not want female photographers. So she worked freelance, capturing the streets of Salford, Hulme and Manchester, as families lived and children played among the bomb damaged houses which had still not been demolished and replaced in the mid 1960s. The pictures are extremely moving, because they are not posed or aimed at the heart strings, but recording what was there. We saw children playing iin their gas masks, twenty years after they were all supposedly returned to the authorities; washing hanging across the streets; mothers sitting on their front steps as the children played among the rubble.
Up the stairs, each tread sponsored by some individual or organisation, and past the second floor which has the Archive and the Learning area, we came to the other exhibition. A range of different photographers had focused on (modern)bands and venues. And on the top floor there were photographs of fans, queuing for gigs or enjoying themselves. Fore example, Lorena Turner had photographed a number of Michael Jackson impersonators; William Coutts had a sequence of pictures of Trash Talk at the Camden Underworld.
Also on these floors it was possible to look out at the Soho Streets through wide and tall windows. Perhaps not surprisingly, we enjoyed the Shirley Barker pictures most, since they date from our early adulthood. But all the works were of interest and we shall certainly be back.
There is also a shop and a cafe, though sadly no postcards of the works currently on display: only a beautiful but costly book!