As political uncertainty becomes a defining feature of UK life, British photographers select images from their archive that explore our unsettling era
Taken from the spring/summer 2019 issue of Dazed. You can buy a copy of our latest issue here
For our spring/summer 2019 ‘The Meaning of Cult’ issue, we asked UK photographers from across the generations to search their archives for moments that they felt spoke to Britishness and the surreality of the political moment in 2019.
Since the would-be Brexit day of 29 April, the situation has only grown more elastic, with Theresa May’s EU withdrawal plan rejected in parliament with a historic margin, the official leave date pushed back to 31 October and the formation of the single issue Brexit Party led by former head of UKIP, Nigel Farage. The European Parliament elections taking place on 23 May are set to be the most decisive in a generation, determining not only how the UK is represented in EU negotiations in the crucial upcoming five year period (the Brexit Party currently holds a 30 per cent majority, with Labour narrowly behind), but will also shape wider negotiations on climate crisis, immigration rights and the spread of the far right.
Submitted by the likes of Tom Wood, Hannah Starkey, Rosie Marks and Adama Jalloh, these images explore the inherent tensions of British life, but also the moments of hope, joy and humour to be found amid the chaos.
TOM WOOD, PIER HEAD, LIVERPOOL 1986
“It was the time of the International Garden Festival in Liverpool, 1984-85. There was also a People’s Festival around this time at the Pier Head where this was taken. The Garden Festival was part of the government strategy - following the Toxteth riots - to address long-term economic decline and mass unemployment on Merseyside. Liverpool had lost about 30% of it's population, many young and skilled had left the city.”
ROSIE MARKS, HIGHBURY AND ISLINGTON, LONDON 2016
“Taken at Highbury and Islington station in September 2016.”
HANNAH STARKEY, OLD STREET, LONDON 1998
“This photograph was made for my first exhibition with Maureen Paley, just after graduating from the Royal College of Art 1998. The location is a pub on Old Street, which was near the Dazed offices. It was an amazing area, with an exciting buzz of creativity, particularly for photography.
I walked past this pub almost every day en route between Metro Imaging, my studio and MAP. I knew the scenario I wanted to present in the photograph and needed the perfect location to set the story. One day I walked into the pub and there it was. A corner filled with warm deep colours and a cigarette machine illuminating the scene. (The pub) generously allowed me to use (the space) for free. The arsenal shirt was a lucky surprise. I had asked the girl to bring a selection of tops, and this was one of them. I loved it.
The photograph was actually conceived around the idea of Barthes Punctum and the cut crystal earring that hangs from the stretched ear lobe was intended to be mesmerising. It’s actually from a chandelier that I fashioned into an earring – I remember searching for the perfect cut crystal in furniture flea markets. I still have a very clear idea of props that populate my pictures and really enjoy the process of finding them.
20 years later, I still pass that pub on a regular basis and it makes me smile every time. I have watched and marvelled at all its reincarnations as the area has developed over the years. It always reflects the vibe in the area at the time and is now an ‘open all hours, drink ’til you die’ venue. Working in the same area in a major metropolis reminds me of how quickly places change and I find that exciting.”
ELAINE CONSTANTINE, CALEDONIAN ROAD, LONDON 1999
“It was for a story with Heathermary Jackson called Jumping Jack, shot just off Caledonian Road in 1999.”
DICK JEWELL, STOCKWELL, LONDON 1981
“Horace Walker unloading Black Unity sound system for a Blues in Stockwell, London.”
ROSIE MARKS, SHOREDITCH, LONDON JUNE 2015
“Two people snogging in a smoking area in Shoreditch.”
ADAMA JALLOH, NOTTING HILL, LONDON 2016
“Taken at Notting Hill Carnival – this is an image I feel represents life on the streets of Britain. Despite this being once a year, you really see the streets come alive. For me the image depicts a mixture of warmth, happiness and that urge to be as carefree as the child in the (photo).”
ROSIE MARKS, LONDON 2015
“A man doing pull ups on the Overground.”
LOLA AND PANI, MILE END, LONDON 2014
“This picture was taken at the Mile End skate park. It started pouring down with rain so everyone ran inside for cover except one kid who was doing wheelies all over the park. This was the end of an era, as the skate shop closed a few months later and a lot of locals stopped going (to the park).”
KUBA RYNIEWICZ, GATESHEAD 2018
“Both photographs are part of a project on privatisation of the public space. I took portraits of (kids) who were either relocated in Gateshead or were somehow effected by the (Tesco owned) formerly public space.”