Peter Fraser

Newquay No. 1, from 12 Day Journey

1984, printed 2014

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Peter Fraser born 1953
Photograph, inkjet print on paper
Image: 428 × 532 mm
Purchased with funds provided by the Jennifer Ann Murray Bequest 2014


This is one of a group of two colour photographs in Tate’s collection from the British photographer Peter Fraser’s series 12 Day Journey 1984 (Tate P81068P81069). Newquay No.1 1984 (Tate P81068) shows a supply of breeze blocks on a building site held together by plastic cable. The partially ripped plastic sheet covering them is a pale lavender hue, a colour that seems somehow unexpected in such a setting. Southampton 1984 (Tate P81069) depicts a man’s arm hanging limply from a bunk bed. The unclothed arm, with its thick protruding veins, cuts the photographic frame in half vertically and forms a visceral fleshy presence against an ambiguous setting. It was taken by Fraser in a Southampton youth hostel. He had recently spent two months in the United States with the photographer William Eggleston (born 1939), who had a significant impact on Fraser’s approach to taking photographs and his use of colour. What struck Fraser particularly was ‘the unusual psychological force of [Eggleston’s] work; the sense of deep connection that his apparently artless and superficial records of inconsequential things managed to generate’ (David Chandler, in Tate St Ives 2013, p.25). With a grant from North West Arts, Fraser decided to take photographs while on a journey that ‘would begin from the edge of Britain but otherwise be unplanned, governed by chance encounters and by circumstance and it would continue for twelve days’ (ibid., p.39).

The images in Tate’s collection from 12 Day Journey were included in Fraser’s book Two Blue Buckets, published in 1988. This was Fraser’s first photobook and has come to be considered as one of a small number of important publications that defined what has been called ‘post-documentary’ photography in Britain, alongside publications by Fraser’s peers such as Paul Graham, Martin Parr, Jem Southam and Chris Killip. The book brings together photographs from four series of work: 12 Day Journey 1984, Everyday Icons 1985–6 (see Tate P81066P81067, P81071P81072 and P81074), The Valleys Project 1985 (see Tate P81065, P81070 and P81073) and Towards an Absolute Zero 1986. It summarised Fraser’s work between 1983 and 1988 and won the Bill Brandt Award, awarded by The Photographers Gallery, London for the best photographic book of 1988. Fraser has been at the forefront of colour photography as a fine art medium since the early 1980s. Less concerned with overt social documentary than Martin Parr (born 1952) and Paul Graham (born 1956), Fraser’s practice developed around a sense of revelatory encounters with everyday things or places, which he photographed with forensic intensity. His found still lives, as exemplified by the photographs in 12 Day Journey, reveal the incidental beauty and strangeness in the visible world.

All the photographs from the series in Tate’s collection exist in editions of twelve and are archival pigment prints.

Further reading
Rupert Martin, Maureen Paley, Two Blue Buckets: Photographs by Peter Fraser, Manchester 1988.
Peter Fraser, exhibition catalogue, Tate St Ives 2013.

Helen Delaney
May 2014

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