When I read about the Exit photography group: three, young photographers trying to bring about social reform by documenting harrowing poverty through purely black and white photographs as well as interviews over 5 years, I found the magazine article about Survival Programmes to be eye-opening and moving at the same time.
Home-bound pensioner, Maryhill, Galsgow, Scotland, 1975 by the Exit Photography Group depicts a man who’s thoughts are elsewhere. Whether his thoughts are on what is outside his window, or in my opinion more likely his retirement, it seems from his intent gaze they are elsewhere and not on the TV which dominates the composition. Ironically the TV shows a scene which may be something akin to what he regards as retirement which is why I’ve found this image so compelling. The black and white medium allows the viewer to concentrate on the compositional aspects of the image as well as lighting so this potential message becomes clearer.
Rootless Youth, Small Heath, Birmingham, 1975 by the Exit Photography Group was the most moving image for me of the series as the youth looks very dejected and run-down and the black and white treatment subtly leads the viewer to the unfortunate youth because of the converging perspective centring in around his head.
In terms of the Exit photography group’s photographs’ success in fighting for social reform, because the photographs were black and white, for me their cause was aided as the black and white element helped. I felt the photographs themselves were very well-composed and indicative of the struggles with poverty that were happening but because the medium of black and white was employed they did indeed take on an extra authority. I have thought about why this may be and one reason which occurred to me was that people associated black and white with truthfulness as photography had traditionally been this medium (colour had not been possible until later in photography’s life). For that reason the viewer was more likely to accept what was represented in the frame as fact.
Vandals, Tenement Block, Govan, Glasgow, Scotland, 1975 by the Exit Photography Group was for me a look into a different world with the vandals photographed on two extreme corners of the frame. This added to the drama in my opinion.
Perhaps another less obvious reason the photographers for the Exit photography group employed black and white solely may have been that although colour was available and was more immediate and modern, black and white was also available but more aged. Viewers may subconsciously read the images as part of an older time, stuck in its ways. Therefore in a way it possibly signified the divide in contemporary colour and older black and white. The message of social reform being communicated with the viewer that way (poverty belonged to the old age with black and white). Perhaps colour would be used as a more positive, immediate energy to celebrate social reform by these photographers, if social reform was brought about?
A link to the license for the images above: http://www.amber-online.com/about/terms-conditions/attribution-noncommercial-noderivatives/
issuu. (2006). Volume 5 Number 1. [online] Available at: https://issuu.com/foto8/docs/vol5no1 [Accessed 12 Feb. 2017].
Steele-Perkins, C., Battye, N. and Trevor, P. (1975). Survival Programmes: In Britain’s Inner Cities: Home-bound pensioner, Maryhill, Glasgow, Scotland, 1975. [Photograph] Newcastle: AmberSide Collection.
Steele-Perkins, C., Battye, N. and Trevor, P. (1975). Survival Programmes: In Britain’s Inner Cities: Rootless Youth, Small Heath, Birmingham, 1975. [Photograph] Newcastle: AmberSide Collection.
Steele-Perkins, C., Battye, N. and Trevor, P. (1975). Survival Programmes: In Britain’s Inner Cities: Vandals, Tenement Block, Govan, Glasgow, Scotland, 1975. [Photograph] Newcastle: AmberSide Collection.