Visible Girls: Revisited, is a new photography commission and national travelling exhibition of female portraits by photographer Anita Corbin. The exhibition brings together original images of women from different subcultures of the early 1980s and newly commissioned portraits of the same women now.
The work will reunite women with their adolescent selves, exploring the ways in which photography can reveal and reflect upon identity and society at various stages of women’s lives.
In 1981, as a young female photographer at the beginning of her career, Corbin made 28 double portraits of young women from different cultural groups: skins, mods, punks, rockabillies, new romantics, rastas and young lesbians. She was fascinated by the ways in which cultural allegiance and identity were boldly and explicitly expressed through fashion, music and environment by women emerging from adolescence. Captured in their natural hangouts of clubs, pubs, friends’ homes and social centres, these girls were living in the moment and dreaming of the future. The groundbreaking project, Visible Girls, toured the UK in the 80s and 90s, showing in youth clubs, town halls and libraries. The images are a rarity for the time, not only because of their subjects but because of the photographer’s technical approach using slow colour film and portable flash.
Last year Corbin launched an international social media campaign in order to track the women down. Now, 36 years later and with over 70% of the women found, the original images of those young women will be displayed alongside a new series – of the women they became.
Anita Corbin says: This exhibition is not only about the powerful bond between women united by subculture, belief and friendship, but about the potential of women coming together across generations. Visible Girls: Revisited, allows the ‘visibility’ of youth to shine a light on the often-disregarded wisdom of the older woman, revealing a unique, cross-generational tribe with the power to provoke and inspire. Visible Girls: Revisited is an exhibition where mothers and daughters will find mutually provocative ground through which to forge a rare solidarity – that at this point in our history we need more than ever.
Alongside the images will be original tape recordings of interviews with some of the girls from 1981 and interviews with them now. The individual stories behind each image will be revealed, exploring how the women’s lives have changed since the original shot was taken. What has happened in those 36 years? Have their lives developed as they imagined? How have changes in society and its attitudes to women affected them?
The 56 women who feature in the images were mainly from London but some were on a day trip or on holiday in the city when Corbin photographed them, many are now living in Europe or further afield. The exhibition will tour England – each location will have a unique presentation inspired by the voice of the city.
Do you know any of these Visible Girls? The search continues for the remaining 30% of the missing subjects – join us on social media and help us find them #VisibleGirls.
Visible Girls: Revisited is curated by Tory Turk who says: Anita’s role in the creation of the original Visible Girls images was pivotal, a girl of the same age directing double-portraits that would become not only a snapshot of time for all the girls involved, but also a documentation of social, subcultural and image- making history. Today phones have enabled a new type of self-portrait, the ‘selfie’. A photographer is able to take control and direct this routine by taking a photograph of people whilst executing the ‘selfie’. This performance is not only popular with the young, but also has its role in the ‘age-downfication’ of society – the ‘selfie’ can make us feel young again. Throughout the Visible Girls: Revisited tour we are inviting ‘girls’ of all ages to capture a contemporary version of a double-portrait.
An events programme of talks, workshops and masterclasses announced by each venue will accompany the exhibition.
Hull, Artlink: 7 July 2017 – 11 August 2017
Exeter, Phoenix: 17 November – 21 December 2017 Norwich Arts Centre: 7 February – 14 March 2018 Bristol, 3CA: 6 September – 4 October 2018
Anita began her photography career in the early ’80s with her now internationally acclaimed Visible Girls series. A graduate of the Royal College of Art and finalist in the Sunday Times/Nikon scholarship of 1981, she then spent 15 years covering “human interest” stories for the The Sunday Times and The Observer magazines and commissions for a wide range of publications followed, her portfolio includes portraiture, annual report photography for award-winning design consultancies, and public sector documentary work for housing charities, health trusts and The British Council. Her editorial portraiture includes iconic shots of Bob Hoskins, Joely Richardson, Peter O’Toole, Alan Bennett and Mica Paris. The National Portrait Gallery in London has, to date, purchased 20 of her photographs for the national archive. Her legacy project First Women U.K. 100 portraits of women who are first in their chosen field, photographed between 2009 – 2016 will be launched in 2018 to celebrate one hundred years of women’s suffrage: 1stwomenuk.co.uk.
Tory Turk is an independent exhibition curator, specialising in style and popular culture – she has been working with the Hyman Archive (The World’s Largest Magazine Collection) as Head Archivist & Creative Lead since 2011. Tory has curated several exhibitions at London’s revered Somerset House including the recent ‘Print Matters’ and she co-curated ‘The Jam: About The Young Idea’. Other recent projects include ‘Style Sharing’ at KCC, ‘A Street Style Journey’ at the Londonewcastle Project Space, ‘Moving Mountains’ at Somerset House and ‘Legends of the Martini’ at the Royal Academy. As well as her work with the Hyman Archive, she has managed large-scale archive projects for session hair-stylist Sam McKnight and make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury.