Harrison, Judy. (2 of 4). Oral History of British Photography.

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  • Subjects

    2013-12-02, 2014-02-17

  • Recording date

    British Library

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  • Conductor

    Harrison, Judy, 1953- (speaker, female)

  • Director

    Read, Shirley (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 2: Mention of the competitiveness of the RCA, the degree show and JH’s embarrassment at having her photographs in The Daily Telegraph. Mention of JH’s continuing political involvement, being in limbo for a year after the RCA, doing voluntary work in a primary school and for Meals on Wheels. Description of applying for an Arts Council funded fellowship at the Photographic Gallery run by Leo Stable, moving to Southampton, mention of Paul Carter and Barry Lane, the difficulty of being in Southampton and slowly finding her feet, going round youth clubs and schools and then going to Mount Pleasant Middle School where most of the children didn’t have English as a mother tongue so literacy was a problem, the special needs and head teacher’s support of JH’s idea that they could use photographs taken by the children for teaching language books, borrowing a darkroom at a local college and a list of the different backgrounds of the children, that the school was in the red light district. Description of the development of the project from 1979, just before the start of Arts Council educational funding and community arts, support from Barry Lane, building darkrooms, the importance of good equipment, it was a one-two year fellowship but JH carried on, not envisaging that it would continue for 30 years and it grew organically, her interest in the politics and the representation of different cultures. [00:29:41] Brief mention of exhibiting at the gallery in Southampton and staying in touch with Leo Stable after the fellowship ended. [00:31:36] being invited to join both Network and Format in 1983/4 and deciding to join Format, an all women photographic agency and very socially concerned, their great meetings and her friendships with Roshini Kempadoo and Joanne O’Brien, their deadlines, showing work and mentoring. [00:34.38 Further description of the Mount Pleasant project, JH’s understanding that she had to raise money for it to continue and approaching Southampton Council for Racial Equality, the Gulbenkian Foundation and the Urban Aid Grant, a small amount from Southern Arts, revenue funding from the City and County Councils, an amount from the Arts Council and from the Literature panel of Southern Arts to publish pictures and poems. Detailed description of how the project worked, small groups of children, walking around the streets and meeting people, using Russian Cosmic Symbol cameras and later Pentax K1000s, allowing the children to take the cameras home, the children’s respect for that, coming from homes without cameras, free film, using measuring sticks and string, acquiring transferable skills. [00:50:29] Description of the children’s memories of doing test strips, counting seconds, the slowness of the process, and their pleasure in working in the darkroom at their own pace and how they saw it as a cocoon or shelter, racism on the streets and the more subtle racism of school, their perception that photography gave them confidence and self esteem, their continuing friendship with JH. Further comments on what being in the darkroom meant to the children, the safety of it, that it was relaxing, the contrast with the hyperactivity of the classroom, the silence of the darkroom, being able to breathe and being in your own world, their later perception of how political it was. [01:02:46] A discussion of some of the images in the book and an anecdote about Balbir Kaur Digpal[BKD][p46-49] who won second prize in a Channel 4 photographic competition and a paid trip to be presented her prize at the National Media Museum in Bradford. [01:05:30] Description of the types of image made by the children, family portraits and their license to take pictures in the street, that their homes became studios and a description of the current digital work, using found internet images, by BKD, that the images are influenced by Indian photography, Bollywood, Kwame Apagya, self portraits, the importance of photography in BKD’s life. [01:14:48] Comment that many of the families JH worked with are Bhartra Sikhs who originally come from Delhi and some from the Punjab. [01:16:16] Further discussion of the photographs and the input of the children into the book, description of their magazine called Step Forward, their idea, the name and the poetry and photograph book [01:21:30] Description of a big oral history project in Punjabi and English in 1992 which is now a permanent exhibition in the temple, that the pattern of migration to Southampton is very similar across the country. Comment about staged images based on Bollywood films, on JH’s desire not to influence the children or tell them too much about composition, that they were very serious about the activity of taking pictures, which are now historical documents, that JH taught them to use flash, what they photographed and that they became the family photographers and it was empowering and their teachers couldn’t do it.

  • Description

    Life story interview with photographer Judy Harrison, 1953- (copyright Judy Harrison)

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