In episode 38 of The Great Women Artists Podcast, Katy Hessel interviews the brilliant London-based writer LOU STOPPARD on the ICONIC and TRAILBLAZING street photographer SHIRLEY BAKER (1932–2014) !!!!
[This episode is brought to you by Alighieri jewellery: www.alighieri.co.uk | use the code TGWA at checkout for 10% off!]
And WOW! This was such an insight into one of the greatest street photographers of the 20th century. A woman who captured 6+ decades of change in post-War Britain: from Manchester in the ‘50s and ‘60s, to the heights of Thatcherism in the ‘80s, and New Labour in the 2000s.
A self-proclaimed “idler with a camera”, the fearlessly socially and politically engaged Shirley saw beauty, character and absurdity in the everyday. Documenting those often overlooked or on the outside – much like the artist herself who wasn’t recognised with a major solo exhibition until right at the end of her life at The Photographer’s Gallery – Shirley captured unnamed people who shaped our cultures, as opposed to the places themselves.
Highly sensitive to change and the ageing process, Shirley Baker was skilled at observing modernity, whether it be through the rise of industrialism and technology, altering eating habits, or the abandonment of terraced houses in the North between 1955–1973 (after the Housing Repairs and Rents Act), which were abruptly replaced by large looming tower blocks. Always on the frontline of change, she captured moments that felt still amongst a fast-paced world:
"I did know that fundamental changes were taking place and nobody seemed to be interested in recording the face of the people or any- thing in their lives. My interest grew into a compulsion even though the notion of someone wandering the unpicturesque streets of Manchester and Salford with a camera seemed quite crazy to most people then."
But she also captured the imperfections in people – people who tried to live up to society’s expectations with whom she caught moments when their mask slipped. Wow. So much to unpick here!!! I am in awe of Shirley and Lou's brilliant take on her. An INCREDIBLY aware photographer with a fascinating story which we discuss in depth!
Lou’s fantastic book! https://mackbooks.co.uk/products/shirley-baker-br-lou-stoppard-ed
This episode is sponsored by Alighieri
Use the code: TGWA for 10% off!
Katy Hessel: @thegreatwomenartists / @katy.hessel
Sound editing by Amber Miller (@amber_m.iller)
Artwork by @thisisaliceskinner
Music by Ben Wetherfield