Artist Study. Chris Killip

Chris Killip is a social issue photographer born in Douglas on the Isle of Man in 1946. He became known for capturing images of a changing world. I’ve come across his photos before and remember his images being black and white depictions of the industrial world. Instead of just taking photos of the physical industrial revolution, he focuses on the people and how it is affecting them. We, as humans, have a natural affinity with other people in photographs, we can relate to them, feel their emotion, their pain or happiness. He shows us their lives and by focusing on them we are told the story from a very true perspective. “He was also possessed of an understanding of human character and a singular photographic vision

He moved to Newcastle and it was there he started documenting the area and producing a set of images that have been viewed in many ways. An interview in the Independent especially resonated with me in the way a set of photos can produce different reactions

“Chris Killip and I are looking at the same photographs but we are seeing different things. They are dense, vivid, solid, black and white images of working people in the North of England in the seventies and eighties. To mean they speak of a grim, bleak and alienated breed, unsmiling, ground down, resigned or perhaps crushed and defeated. To him they celebrate the resilience of human spirit.”

Killip said in an interview that he just knew Newcastle was going to change, he didn’t forsee how it would end so violently with industrial disintergration, he just felt that it was at the end of something. Setting out to document the changing landscape in the 1900’s has provided the world with a fascinating yet harrowing and moving insight into a lost era, it will never be seen again, only through his works.

One of his photos that stand out to me is the one depicting children playing in the street, with a ship towering over them in the background. It shows a shocking contrast, the tiny innocent figures of the children playing and the changing world around them, the drawings on the road like a divide cutting through their lives.

And that is why photography is powerful, it can capture moments that may never be seen again, places that will never feel again the footsteps of mankind. But it isn’t just about the historical representation, these photos may seem alien but the harsh truth is that this happened in our lifetimes and definitely our parents and Killip has ensured the life of Northern England in the 1980’s will never be forgotten.

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