In the 1970s photography changed radically as it became more politically conscious and socially engaged. Emerging photographers rejected the idea of the ‘rural idyll’ and many documentarists focused on British society, investigating everything from disappearing customs to the decaying industry of the North. A broader appreciation of the medium developed at this time, giving photographers the opportunity to work outside the traditional structures of portraiture, fashion and photojournalism. There was also considerable debate around ideas of representation.

In the 1980s, Britain was defined by the rise of the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher. For many photographers it offered a wealth of possibilities. ‘Britishness’ was caricatured and the melancholy of 1960s and 1970s documentary photography was replaced by high satire. The use of the colour image within documentary provided a new vision of the nation.

The 1980s also saw the launch of style magazines, which fostered an interest in street fashion and created a conduit for experimental fashion photography. British photographers from this period were confident, selfdirected and thought-provoking. 

Artists and Archives

Keith Arnatt
Nicholas Battye (Exit Photography Group)
Jane Bown
Vanley Burke
Stephen Dalton
John Davies
Anna Fox
Paul Graham
Nancy Hellebrand
Chris Killip
Daniel Meadows
Peter Mitchell
Horace Ové
Martin Parr
Chris Steele Perkins (Exit Photography Group)
Martin Pover
Paul Reas
Derek Ridgers
Paul Seawright
Homer Sykes
Paul Trevor (Exit Photography Group)
Tom Wood