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Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers

Exhibition preview

AN EXHIBITION entitled Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers will be on display in the Barbican Art Gallery from March 16 to June 30, 2016.

Curated by the iconic British photographer Martin Parr, this exhibition is a timely consideration of how international photographers from the 1930s onwards have captured the social, cultural, political and topographical identity of the UK through the camera lens.

From social documentary and street photography, to portraiture and architectural photography by some of the leading lights of 20th century photography such as Henri Cartier-Bresson (France), Edith Tudor-Hart (Austria), Candida Höfer (Germany), Robert Frank (USA), Evelyn Hofer (Germany), Gian Butturini (Italy), Akihiko Okamura (Japan), Axel Hütte (Germany), Sergio Larrain (Chile), Tina Barney (USA), David Glodblatt (South Africa) and Hans van der Meer (The Netherlands).

An extensive photobook section brings together an array of rare, new and out-of-print publications by international photographers from the 1930s to today, constituting a parallel history of Britain alongside the works exhibited.

Designed by Stirling Prize-winning London based architects Witherford, Watson, Mann, Strange and Familiar presents a vibrant portrait of modern Britain.

Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican, said: “Since its earliest days, the Barbican has been at the forefront of promoting photography. It is wonderful to welcome Martin Parr back to the Barbican 14 years after his hugely successful retrospective. As curator, Martin will bring a discerning eye, his fascination with people and British culture, as well as his formidable knowledge and appreciation of international photography. This show promises to be a rich, varied and thought-provoking portrait of modern Britain.”

Each of the photographers in the exhibition records different characteristics of life around Britain in their own distinctive style. Henri Cartier-Bresson visited Britain on numerous occasions; capturing the celebratory spirit at the Coronation of King George VI in 1937 and portraying the euphoria of the Silver Jubilee in 1977. Cartier-Bresson focused his lens on the street parties that marked the occasion.

Equally Sergio Larrain’s take on London in the late 1950s is a spontaneous response to a city that was undergoing dramatic change in the post-war era and is marked by unusual vantage points and blurred images that capture the dynamism of the city.

Far away from the Premier League, Dutch photographer Hans van der Meer captures the rural locations of lower league football across the UK.

For many of the photographers, Britain was a foreign country that prompted a new approach to their image making.

Martin Parr said: “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.”

Described as a ‘chronicler of our age’, Martin Parr has been a critical figure in British photography for the last three decades. Renowned for his oblique approach to social documentary, his colour photographs touch on themes of leisure, consumption and communication all infused with humour and wit.

He has published over 80 books of his own work including Bad Weather (1982), The Last Resort (1986), Signs of the Times (1992), Home and Abroad (1993), Think of England (2000), Life’s a Beach (2012) and most recently Black Country Stories (2014).

His contribution to photographic culture both nationally and internationally was acknowledged through his appointment as President of Magnum Photos and he has curated a number of critical exhibitions including Rencontres d’Arles (2004), New York Photo Festival (2008) and Brighton Photo Biennial (2010). He has also enjoyed countless solo exhibitions, including a major retrospective organised by Barbican Art Gallery (2002) that toured extensively.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an introductory essay by Martin Parr. A rich programme of talks and events also accompanies the exhibition, details to be announced.

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


Tel: 0845 120 7550