Key Works. An overview of British Photography
The Hyman Collection of British Photography holds vintage photographs and editioned prints of many of the most famous and iconic photographs in British Photographic history as well as remarkable, but less familiar, images.
Key Works presents photographs from the collection to chart the ways in which British photographers have responded to the world around them from the documentary strategies of Bill Brandt and Picture Post photographers such as Bert Hardy and Kurt Hutton, through Roger Mayne and Tony Ray Jones, and on to Martin Parr, Paul Graham and their legacy.
As well as including forms of documentary photography, the collection focuses on artists working in photography who have pursued more subjective or conceptual strategies. The collection has an equal number of works by male and female artists.
Land of Make Believe
A central aspect of the Hyman Collection's holidings of British Art addresses masquerade, performance, costume, ritual, parade. There is a strong thread of fantasy and a variety of works that respond to eccentricity, constructions of identity, and the heritage industry. From the drama of the street to more internal monologues, these mini fictions question the authenticity of what is shown.
Sign of the Times. Word and Image in British Photography
Photographs in the Hyman Collection collection allow one to explore the use of word and image in British Photogtraphy and allow one to chart a number of strategies by which text is used to provide a commentary on what is shown or to deepen its meaning. At its most pobvious text may indicate a time or place but frequently it introduces an additional dimension whether it be humour, social commentary, political engagement or semiotic concerns. Initially embedded within the picture, by the 1970s text was increasingly used to accompany the image, often screenprinted beneath it, to direct the viewer's response to what is shown in ways that may be humorous but are often subversive, ironic, satirical or polemical.
In 1903 the photographer H.S. Mendelssohn asserted that "Portraiture is now in the hands of the women". This was a remarkable development. Just a few years earlier there had been only one West End photography studio run by a woman but by the Edwardian period women had risen to prominence. A lead was provided by Alice Hughes, whose example inspired others such as Lallie Charles and her sister Rita Martin to open portrait studios, but women also served as photojournalists as with the prominent example of Christina Broom and the less well known work of Kate Pragnell.
The Hyman Collection of British Photography includes many works which address the countryside including both landscapes and depictions of village life. These include depictions of the land as in Fay Godwin's pastoral idylls, John Blakemore and Thomas Cooper's metaphoric treatment of nature, John Davies's exploration of industry, Jem Southam's subtle depiction of man-made interventions, and Keith Arnatt's subversive views of areas of outstanding natural beauty. The collection also includes pictures of village life that focus on people and pastimes. Villages are shown to be sites of ritual, curiosity and strange events. These include Tony Ray Jones's eye for quirks and foibles, Homer Sykes's depiction of folk pastimes, bonfire night and other communal events in Anna Fox's Hamphsire village, Paul Reas's witty response to heritage tourism and Colin Jones's photograph of the Queen at Sandringham.
As well as exploring the rural life of the village and countryside, many British photographers have explored nature and addressed the natural environment. At times these depictions are mundane, and at other times nostalgic, romanticised, political and personal.
Beside the Seaside
As an Island Nation the coast and beach are highly charged culural and national symbols. British photographers have responded to the subjeect in a variety of ways. Bill Brandt provides the emblematic image of someone on a seaside holiday. Keith Vaughan provides pictures of innocence just moments before the outbreak of war. Bert Hardy chronicles life on a fishing trawler at sea. Fay Godwin celebfrates its rugged beauty. Mark Power's brililantly presents the locations listed in the celebrated BBC radio broadcasts of The Shipping Forecast. Meanwhile, for other photographers the beach becomes the setting for explorations of class and society as in the works of Tony Ray Jones, Marketa Luskacova, Colin Jones, Martin Parr, Anna Fox, The Caravan Gallery and Simon Roberts.
The Hyman Collection of British Photography includes works from England, Nothern Ireland, Scotland and Wales that trace the lives of communities in rural and urban parts of Britain. In addition the collection includes a strong holding of work which focuses on London and its various regions and explores class and society, from homes in Belgravia to the gypsy community by the Westway Roundabout and from the City of London to the Inner City.
A Night in London
Inspired by the lead provided by Bill Brandt's seminal book, A Night in London, which was published eighty years ago this year, The Hyman Collection presents works that reflect aspects of the nocturnal life of London.
The Hyman Collection of British Photography has a number of works which take as their setting the streets of Britain. At times what is captured is an unguarded moment but often the photographer explores the performative element of what is shown and foregrounds the relationship between the camera and the subject.
Queen and Country
The Hyman Collection includes many works which present folk customs, constructions of national identity and that address forms of patriotism and nationalism.
A central thread of the Hyman Collection is intimacy. Pictures of children are a leitmotif since the earliest days of photography and the collection includes a range of responses to childhood with a particular emphasis on works in which there is an evident closeness or familiairty between photographer and subject. The theme runs through the British photography in the Hyman Collection from Bill Brandt to the present.