Chris Killip

Leso, Blackie, Bever, ?, David, on a bench, Whippet standing, Skinningrove (Leso and David were to drown of Skinningrove on July 29, 1986)

1982, printed 2012–13

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Chris Killip 1946–2020
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
Image: 403 × 503 mm
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Acquisitions Committee 2014


This is one of a group of black and white photographs in Tate’s collection taken by the British photographer Chris Killip between 1982 and 1983 in the North Yorkshire coastal village of Skinningrove (Tate P81042P81048). The village had once been home to an iron smelting industry, but when Killip photographed there the local community was facing mass unemployment and there was an attempt to create a substitute economy around inshore fishing. Most of the photographs that Killip took at Skinningrove depict youths on the beach, fishing or mending their boats and nets. Typically of his working process, Killip spent extended periods of time living amongst and getting to know the local community, particularly the village’s young people who faced lives with little prospect of gainful employment. Images such as David and Whippet Waiting for Salmon 1983 (Tate P81044), Working on Boat Repair, Skinningrove 1982 (Tate P81045) and Cleaning Nets, Skinningrove 1983 (Tate P81046) all convey a sense of the idle time that was felt amongst these individuals.

Killip is best known for his extensive series of photographs taken in the north-east of England, such as General North East 1975–9 and Shipbuilding 1972–81 (see Tate P81021P81037), which focus on the changing industrial landscape and increasingly poverty stricken social and economic climate. Though born on the Isle of Man – which he also photographed (see Tate P20400P20422) – Killip decided to settle in Newcastle-upon-Tyne when the oil and IMF crises, deindustrialisation and redundancy became the defining conditions of life in northern England. The overriding theme in most of the photographs taken in the north-east is the industrial decline of the manufacturing towns and the social disintegration that resulted in some parts of the country. Killip’s working practice is distinctive for the way he immerses himself into the communities he photographs and builds relationships with his subjects over a long period of time. This close level of involvement shows itself through images that are sensitive to the local environment and its inhabitants, as seen in the Skinningrove series.
Killip is considered one of the most significant photographers to have emerged in Britain in the 1970s, known particularly for his black and white photography and engagement with the communities he photographs. Tate’s collection also includes groups of photographs from his series: Isle of Man 1970–3 (Tate P20400P20422); Huddersfield, Yorkshire 1973–4 (Tate P81015P81020); General North East 1975–9 and Shipbuilding 1972–81 (see Tate P81021P81037); Seaside, Tyneside and Wearside 1975–6 (see Tate P81038P81041); Sea Coal, Lynemouth, Northumberland 1983–4 (see Tate P81048P81057 and P81063); and Pirelli 1989–90 (Tate P20394P20399, P81058P81062 and P81064).

Further reading
Chris Killip; Arbeit/ Work, exhibition catalogue, Museum Folkwang, Essen 2012.
Clive Dilnot, ‘Chris Killip: The Last Photographer of the Working Class’, afterimage, vol.39, May–June 2012.

Simon Baker
February 2014

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