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Jo Spence (1934 - 1992) has been an integral figure within photographic discourse from the 1970s onwards. Throughout her diverse projects she is well known for her highly politicised approach to photography and the representation of her own struggles with cancer. She started her career assisting com ....
23 September 2014
Jo Spence. Photographs from the Jo Spence Memorial Archive
Claire and James Hyman are delighted to announce one of our most significant purchases, a major collection of over one hundred vintage photographs, as well as exhibition panels and hundreds of contact prints, by Jo Spence. The photographs were acquired from the Jo Spence Memorial Archive though Richard Saltoun Gallery, London.
Jo Spence. Self Portraits
Jo Spence's most celebrated works include her self-portraits. The Hyman Collection includes pictures from the 1970s and 1980s which allow one to trace the evolution of her concerns from the socio-political to the personal-political as manifest by her self-portraits.
Jo Spence. Remodelling photohistory
The critical importance of Remodelling Photo History to the subsequent direction of Spence's practice cannot be underestimated. The project, again co-produced with Terry Dennett, emphasised staging and construction over the problematic assumption of naturalism in the documentary image. The term 'remodelling' placed emphasis on the necessity of an ideological and organisational restructuring of the photographic image. Essentially theatrical (the idea of photo-theatre being a key concept for Spence), Remodelling Photo History drew from the drama-therapy of Brazilian theatre director Augusto Boal, whose 'spect-actor' techniques were absorbed and repurposed in the project for personally and politically therapeutic ends.
For those of us who are photographic workers it is obvious that a vast amount of work still needs to be done on the so-called history of photography, and on the practices, institutions and apparatuses of photography itself, and the function they have had in constructing and encouraging particular ways of viewing and telling about the world. The photo work which follows is an exploration of our attempts to work through some of this problem by 'making strange' the everyday, normalized, institutional practices and codes of 'the trade', re-ordered, re-modelled, re-invented, so that their commonsense, unquestioned notions become disrupted. We are not trying to show familiar objects in unfamiliar ways, but rather to denaturalize the genres of photography which already consist of fully coded visual signs. Much of our thinking on this had been influenced by reading and seeing the work of Brecht, and by the writings of Augusto Boal
Above all, we wanted to get away from the dry didacticism which pervades so much worthy work on photographic theory and to provide instead a kind of 'revolt' from within the ranks. In a funny sort of way this is a return to our class roots, where adversity and oppression are dealt with not only through comradely struggles or learned exposition, but lived out through individual or group rituals like sarcasm or irony (which is commonly termed 'taking the piss'). We aimed to produce something which was perhaps not quite in such 'good taste' as it usually expected; something which tried to break down some of the sacred cows of photography and bourgeois aesthetics while daring to mention police photography and fashion photography in the very same breath, to indicate that perhaps they share some common formal features.
Extract from the publication accompanying the exhibition:
Jo Spence: Work (Part I)
1 June - 15 July 2012
Jo Spence: Work (Part II)
Studio Voltaire, London
12 June - 11 August 2012
British Photography / The Hyman Collection
The Highest Product of Capitalism (After John Heartfield)
Vintage Gelatin Silver Print
20.32 x 25.4 cms (7.99 x 9.98 ins)