Shirley Baker: Women and Children; and Loitering Men

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Salford, 1962

Photographs of streets and their occupants in Salford, Moss Side, Hulme and Ancoats in the 1960s and 70s. The exhibition in Manchester Art Gallery also had recorded reminiscences from people who had featured in the shots.  Even allowing for an element of posing, the streets were crowded: nowadays terraces are filled with cars rather than playing children. (A swing round a lamppost, anyone?) Ah, but it brought back socks round your ankles and cheap grey flannel.

It was interesting, fun and well curated, but the photographs did become rather samey. Baker stuck to street scenes (I can’t recall much in the way of nature apart from a tree and a budgie cage hanging up outside the front door) populated mainly by children and women. There was one man . . . photographed outside a betting shop.

But Baker’s prints did give significance to the tough lives of those she photographed. The joy of play, the neighbourliness, the life of the street, the sweeping away of the old in favour of the modern, and always highlighting those overlooked for reasons of their class or gender.

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