Since its invention photography has indisputably revolutionized our world, enabling us to perceive experience and share things in new and extraordinary ways. This has never been more apparent than in this contemporary period when, in China as elsewhere, photography has moved from the margins to the centre of contemporary culture.
This exhibition Work, Rest and Play: British photography from the 1960s to Today re ects on the richness of photographic practice over the last 50+ years in the United Kingdom. This period witnessed the development of a diverse photographic culture which included the creation of The Photographers’ Gallery, London in 1971, one of the rst galleries in the world to be devoted solely to photography. Alongside this, new dedicated photographic courses within art schools accompanied the rise of specialist magazines, photography publishers and other independent galleries – all laying the foundations for the dynamic photographic culture we enjoy today.
Work, Rest and Play: British Photography from the 1960s to Today introduces the work of key figures who have contributed significantly to the development of the medium through the prism of documentary practices. Whilst any exhibition of this kind cannot include everyone, this selection aims to highlight artists and photographers who, through their particular vision, enable us to understand the world in fresh and unexpected ways.
While the exhibition is structured chronologically, the themes of "work, rest and play" provide a backdrop through which to experience the images and the subjects they focus on. "Work" may be seen in the hard grind of the Welsh coal miners exemplified by Philip Jones Griffiths and Anna Fox’s service industry workers of the 1980s; "rest" straddles both the leisure seekers caught by Martin Parr at a seaside resort and the landscapes depicted by Fay Godwin, while "play" incorporates relaxation and the rise of popular culture, from Tony Ray Jones’ early documents examining the British class system to Derek Ridgers’ exploration of subcultures in late 70s club scene.
We very much hope that the exhibition and catalogue will provide audiences with an inspiring introduction to some of the key photographers working across all parts of the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) as well as an opportunity to appreciate the diverse strategies and new visual languages employed during a period of enormous social and cultural changes.
It is a great honor to be collaborating with the British Council and with Three Shadows Xiamen Photography Art Centre to realise this project for the fourth time.
We are enormously grateful to The Pin Projects, Metro Imaging as well as Nick Marchand (Art Director), Carma Elliot (Director Beijing) and the team at the British Council Shanghai for all their assistance in making this project possible.
I am also indebted to all the participating artists and their representatives for their close collaboration and commitment on all aspects of the project and to Lucy Soutter for her insightful catalogue essay.
Finally I would also like to thank my team at The Photographers' Gallery especially Bindi Vora and Anna Dannemann for their invaluable support with the curatorial development and project coordination of this exhibition.