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Wednesday, 04 May 2011


A worthy project from an important UK photographer, but could it be . . . just a tad . . . repetitive?

In stock and shipping from Amazon UK

(How about a UK affiliate link btw?)

Unfortunately, the Affiliate linking system isn't working this morning. I'll try to update the post later with a link.


Also the title of a terrific 1985 film about the same community, made on location at Lynemouth using a mixture of professional actors and local people. Visually rather dour and moody, as I recall.

Killip was a founder member of the Amber Collective in Newcastle-on-Tyne in the UK. Amber is still going 40 years later (though it has just, scandalously, had its funding by the Arts Council removed). I believe he made these photographs whist at Amber and they were first exhibited in their gallery in 1984.

Side are the only organisation I know of in the UK dedicated to Documentary photography. You might like to check out the work of Amber's Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen especially Byker Revisited, but all her work is quite wonderful.


Upon a quick perusal of the PDF file, I recognize at least 4 or 5 of the pictures from Killip's "In Flagrante". My guess is that the new book is comprised of "seacoal" pictures that didn't make it into "In Flagrante" for one reason or another -- but is there a discussion somewhere of the relationship between the two works?

I had to remove the PDF file because Steidl informed me it's just for the press. Sorry.


(Sigh). Click on the Amazon UK link on the side, type in "Seacoal" in the search window. Bob's your uncle.

To understand this book it helps to put it in an historical context. In one respect the middle ages in Britain didn't end until relatively recently, as many people still enjoyed "commoner's rights", the right to graze a few animals on common land, or collect firewood from common woodland.

Up until the end of the 18th century these "commons" represented about 20% of agricultural land, so it was a very significant resource which gave local people a great deal of economic independence. But these rights were progressively removed in a series of "Inclosure Acts" which culmminated in the 18th and 19th centuries with bloody protests and savage reprisals. The end of the commons produced a sense of loss which persists to this day.

You still find echoes throughout Britain, people in coastal towns setting crab or lobster pots, people in the New Forest grazing animals on the rare remaining common land, or a passionate attachment to "allotments", small plots of land provided by local authorities for growing vegetables. I can't begin to communicate how jealously these small rights and privileges are guarded.

With this book Chris Killip documents a thousand year tradition of yoemanry. The Lord and Lady may own the land, but I still have these small entitlements that grant an independence.
To put it into a North American context, watch "Winter's Bone". The same defiant insularity, the same paranoid suspicion of outsiders, the same product of Albion's seed.

I have one of his books. I've always been impressed with the rich look of his photographs - and I can think of one photo of a young man on a slip road with a car and a dog and a pram - all near the shore.

Three dimensions into two - and beautifully done.

Just like his stuff.

And don't you constitute "the Press", Mike,

This post enunciates quite clearly one of my 'golden rules' about photography: Find your motif and then pursue it relentlessly until it is done.


I went to the exhibition for this and I was really impressed by the work, the prints were beautiful and the subject fascinating. I have never understood why his work was not more widely received.

What a coincidence! I'm going through the 55 Series on Chris Killip right now. I will be picking this up.

Speaking of photographers who embed within communities, I also recently went through Susan Lipper's Grapevine, which is also a beautiful and haunting book.

He took these on a linhof technika 4x5 in atrocious conditions and must have had balls of brass. Total admiration is due, along with graham smith who waved his linhof around northern england pubs, amazing he wasn't killed! These guys should be huge and it's good to see you spread the word.

I love Jordies (people from Newcastle) they are the salt of the earth. Never met one that I didn't like.

Don McCullin shot coal searchers in the north east and they're much more brooding (as you'd expect from McCullin) but they're also more distant. Killip's is a real study and a good book to buy along it would be the recent reissue of Alen MacWeeney's Irish Travellers: Tinkers No More http://www.amazon.co.uk/Irish-Travellers-Tinkers-No-More/dp/0615415024/ref=tmm_pap_title_0. I own the first print and it's simply stunning and worth a few quid to boot.

(A book for next week, Mike?)

"waved his linhof around northern england pubs, amazing he wasn't killed!

Having waved my camera around Northern Pubs for years (Mancunian) I can say that the biggest danger I've ever faced is having to buy a round. We're friendly "oop north"

My grandfather used to collect coal from another beach near there - I remember him walking back with a couple of sacks full of coal balanced on his bicycle. That beach was eventually cleaned up but not until after it featured in a couple of movies (the original Get Carter (Michael Cain, not Sylvester Stallone) and one of the Aliens series).

For more on Killip:


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