Tate Modern

Workers Until 28 July 2019

Natalie Bell Building Level 2 West

Helga Paris Women at Treff-Modelle Clothing Factory 1984

This display brings together portraits of workers made by Olga Chernysheva, Chris Killip and Helga Paris

Photographing in Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany respectively, each of these three artists explores the theme of labour through portraiture. Although none of the workers are identified by name, they are portrayed with respect through a focus on each individual.

Helga Paris captured life in East Germany in the decades following the Second World War. Her portraits depict workers in a clothing factory in East Berlin in the 1980s. Paris had gained work experience at the factory in the late 1950s while studying fashion design.

Chris Killip has documented changes to UK industry, describing himself as a ‘chronicler of the “De-Industrial Revolution”’. In 1989 the tyre company Pirelli commissioned him to make portraits of workers in their Burton-on-Trent factory. He illuminated his subjects with flash lighting, dramatising the act of work.

In 2007 Olga Chernysheva photographed attendants in Moscow’s underground stations. Chernysheva grew up in a culture dominated by socialist realism, with its uplifting representations of working people. Her approach, by contrast, focuses on the mundane aspects of life. She has said she was interested in the underground staff ‘because they are between visible and invisible. … I wanted to show them as people, to show their dignity.’

Curated by Sarah Allen


Tate Modern
London SE1 9TG
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