Harrison, Judy. (1 of 4). Oral History of British Photography.
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Harrison, Judy, 1953- (speaker, female)
Read, Shirley (speaker, female)
Part 1: Judy Harrison [JH] born in Stoke on Trent in April 1953. Description of parents, their work and personalities, their membership of the Communist Party, JH’s father’s brilliance and treatment because of his politics, JH’s mother’s illness and that it meant JH became closer to her father, two older sisters. Comments on JH’s pride in her father and her understanding that the family was different because they were communists and examples from her childhood, her father’s making of pots with a friend. [00:24:05] Brief description of the family home, parent’s frugality, JH’s parent’s different attitudes to Stoke, her dresses, shoes and haircut and the hat an uncle gave her. [00:32:59] Description of having an imaginary friend, making clothes for a cut-out doll and changing at 13 when she discovered football and became a football fanatic during the 1966 World Cup. [00:36:00] Description of becoming a programme seller for Stoke City football club, how it changed JH, what the job involved, the matches, loving the singing and the freedom. [00:44:50] Comments on secondary school, on always being in trouble, problems caused by her communism, her love of making pots, the art teacher and the connection with the social history of Stoke. Comments on her favourite subject at 6th form college and her continuing love of architecture which she learned from her father, a new beginning, making new friends, the inclusion of boys, dancing and going to the pub, her A level subjects. [01:00:16] Anecdote about her decision to study photography – ‘ a man’s subject’, her father’s photography, his darkroom and his Leica, JH’s Saturday job which bought her her first camera, an Agfa Select. [01:05:00] On applying for college and seeing her first exhibition of Bill Brandt. Description of going to Manchester Polytechnic 1971-4, being the only girl in the class initially, buying a Practika with her father when she was told she needed a better camera, mention of fellow students Rob Bissell, Charlie Meacham, Dave Clark, Kate Mellor, Martin Parr, Daniel Meadows, Brian Griffin and Peter Fraser. [01:18:40] Description of the course, doing projects and JH’s interest on constructing scenes with narratives, making them into books and her favourite which was about her parents. Further thoughts about JH’s mother, JH pleasure in storytelling and interest in people. [01:33:17] Comment on not looking at a lot of photographic work, on liking Henri Cartier Bresson but not Ansel Adams and being fascinated by Diane Arbus, problems of they way Arbus was viewed at the time. Comment on applying to the Royal College of Art [RCA], the only photographic M.A. at the time, and getting in. Reflection on the Manchester students, their drive, Daniel Meadows’ bus. [01:48:27] Description of the RCA, the staff - John Hedgecoe, Michael Langton, Fred Dewbury and Tom Picton, that the students were pushed and the course rigorous, living in a student hostel, comparison with how students are taught today, on winning prizes - the Daily Telegraph award and the Oglivy, Benson, Mather award, selling 10 images from her degree show to the V&A. [02:05:10] Description of JH’s visits to Bill Brandt, who was her tutor, his conversation and his influence on her, starting to feel wary of documentary. Mention that she was influenced by Jo Spence and Shirley Read at Camerawork. [02:16:09] Description of JH’s photographic work on the small farms, farmed mostly by women, around where she came from in Staffordshire, the area she covered, how she worked, the conditions with severe weather and isolation, lack of electricity, photographing objects and people, livestock farming, JH’s recent return to the area, the influence of Walker Evans and Now Let Us Praise Famous Men, working mostly in b&w using natural light, finishing the project after she left the RCA. [02:24:55] Comments on taking it to the Half Moon, going to editorial meetings of the magazine Camerawork, the importance of being in an environment where people were challenging what photography was doing and thinking about representation. [02:31:31] A description of the exhibition and its tour. [02:34:45] Mention of RCA students Barry Lewis and Steve Nash. Further comments on the project on farming, the difficulty of getting there, hitch-hiking, her recent return to the area and being recognised, the collaborative nature of the project, her concerns about the work and the possibilities for mis-use and about an offer from Vogue, her pride in the photographs and the importance of trust in photographic work. Mention that she now spends more time in the area. Further comments on JH’s training, on storage and taking control of the image when making it.
Life story interview with photographer Judy Harrison, 1953- (copyright Judy Harrison)