Chris Killip

The Kinvig family, Ballavervane Farm, St Marks

1970–3, printed 2012–13

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Chris Killip 1946–2020
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
Image: 304 × 381 mm
Presented by the artist 2014


This one of twenty-four black and white photographs in Tate’s collection from the British photographer Chris Killip’s series Isle of Man 1970–3 (see Tate P20400P20422). Killip was born in Douglas on the Isle of Man and originally trained as a hotel manager, before moving to London in the mid-1960s where he worked freelance as an assistant to various photographers including Adrian Flowers (1926–2016). In 1969, after seeing his very first photography exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, he decided to return to the Isle of Man and take pictures of the community and surroundings there. He photographed by day and worked in his father’s pub in the evenings. Killip saw the island’s new status as a tax haven as the first intimation of the beginning of the disappearance of its traditional work and culture. He began his project as a study of the watermills on the island, originally intending to publish the results as a book; however, once he began to photograph the people in relation to the island’s landscape and architecture, he decided to broaden his approach to his subject matter. The photographs in this series are more formally composed and less politically charged than his later depictions of the north-east of England, such as those in his series General North East 1975–9 and Shipbuilding 1972–81 (see Tate P81021P81037).

The Isle of Man images include personal portraits of families and individuals that Killip knew closely, such as My Cousin, Stanley Quirk, Cooil-Sleau Farm, Greeba (Tate P20422) and ‘Matty’ Sloan at Niarbyl (Tate P20419). The landscape of the Isle of Man is captured in atmospheric photographs such as The Road at Ballkilpheric (Tate PP20400) and The Lhen Trench, Ballaugh (Tate P20406). Other images such as Annie Kaighen’s Dairy, Cornk y Voddy (Tate P20404) and Interior, Kella Mill Sulbyi (Tate P20405) are minimal indoor shots which give an insight into the island’s simple yet elegant traditional farming interiors. Killip exhibited most of the series at Side Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1980 and published his book Isle of Man the same year.

Killip was born in 1946 in Douglas on the Isle of Man and is considered one of the most significant photographers to have emerged in Britain in the 1970s. Known particularly for his black and white photography, he has typically worked in extended series spending time in the community and locations he photographs. Tate’s collection also includes groups of photographs from his later series: 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); Skinningrove, North Yorkshire 1982–3 (see Tate P81042P81048); 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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