Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review – Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers, Curated by Martin Parr at the Barbican Art Gallery from 16th March to 19th June 2016

Exhibition Review – Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers, Curated by Martin Parr at the Barbican Art Gallery from 16th March to 19th June 2016



Tina Barney, Frank Habicht, Raymond Depardon, Bruce Gilden, Jim Dow, Martin Parr, Hans Eijkelboom.

The Barbican Art Gallery unveiled their new exhibition entitled Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers. The exhibition curated by the acclaimed British photographer Martin Parr explores how international photographers from the 1930s onwards have captured the social, cultural, and political identity of the UK . The photographs ranging from social documentary and street photography, to portraiture and architectural photography were taken by some of the great names of 20th and 21st century photography including Tina Barney (USA), Gian Butturini (Italy), Henri Cartier-Bresson (France), Bruce Davidson (USA), Raymond Depardon (France), Rineke Dijkstra (The Netherlands), Jim Dow (USA), Hans Eijkelboom (The Netherlands), Robert Frank (Switzerland), Bruce Gilden (USA), Frank Habicht (Germany), Candida Höfer (Germany), Evelyn Hofer (Germany), Axel Hütte (Germany), Sergio Larrain (Chile), Shinro Ohtake (Japan), Akihiko Okamura (Japan), Cas Oorthuys (The Netherlands), Gilles Peress (France), Paul Strand (USA), Edith Tudor-Hart (Austria), Hans van der Meer (The Netherlands) and Garry Winogrand (USA).


Martin Parr

Walking around the exhibition, it is noticeable that each of the 23 photographers may record different characteristics of life around Britain in their own distinctive style, however certain themes from the various periods do stand out. The contrast between the rich and the poor is a popular starting point, Starting in the mid-1930s with Edith Tudor-Hart’s images of London’s East End, Cas Oorthuys street landscapes in the 1950s and  Bruce Davidson’s work in England and Scotland in 1960s show Britain undergoing considerable social, cultural and economic change.


This change is illustrated by the many locations visited by the photographers, Paul Strand ’s images feature the lives and landscape of the Outer Hebrides in the mid-1950s, Robert Frank visited the coal mining towns of South Wales in the early 1950s and Raymond Depardon’s  photographs of Glasgow capture a period of industrial decline in the 1980s.


Not surprisingly, London was a popular location to visit with Sergio Larrain capturing the fast-moving metropolis in the 1950s, whilst Gian Butturini and Frank Habicht show the cultural revolution of the Swinging Sixties.


Frank Habicht

The troubles in Northern Ireland were documented by Japanese photojournalist Akihiko Okamura who tried to look at the communities dealing with the violence and Gilles Peress who travelled to Northern Ireland nearly every year for two decades to document the conflict.


Tina Barney

Portraiture is explored by Evelyn Hofer with her humorous portraits from 1962 of tradespeople in London, Tina Barney’s portraits of the British upper classes provide a remarkable contrast to Bruce Gilden’s portraits of the working class.


Alongside the works exhibited, an extensive photobook section brings together an array of rare, new and out-of-print publications by international photographers from the 1930s to the present.


Martin Parr suggests : The exhibition will reveal a very different take on British life than that produced by British photographers. It is both familiar and strange at the same time.” Looking at the photographs from the 1930s up to the 1980s, it quickly becomes apparent that this was a very different Britain that was more clearly polarised along class lines and still trying to shake off the legacy of empire. In many ways, the exhibition is a reminder of the remarkable changes in Britain in the last 30 years, many of the images were recording  ways of life that were to quickly disappear in the decades ahead.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

Opening hours: Saturday to Wednesday, 10am – 6pm, Thursday & Friday, 10am – 9pm, Bank Holidays: 12 noon – 6pm.

Tickets: Standard £12.00. Concessions: £10. Students 1-17: £8. Young Barbican: £5.  Art Fund Members: £8.  Membership: Unlimited free entry.

For more information and book tickets, visit the Barbican website here

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