The Museo Cerralbo and The Photographer’s Gallery present Women, Children and Loitering Men, featuring the photographer Shirley Baker (U.K., 1932 – 2014) as part of PHotoEspaña 2016, which captures the gradual erosion of working-class culture and urban life.
Between the 60s and the 80s working-class neighborhoods in various northern English cities underwent a process of demolition which resulted in a radical reconfiguration of their urban topography. In this context, Baker was especially attracted to certain working-class neighborhoods in the cities of Manchester and Salford.
The main protagonists of her work are the working people of these places. “I felt compassion for those who were forced to live amid chaos, often for months at a time, even sometimes years, while the demolition took place around them,” in the photographer’s own words.
The show offers an “empathetic but unsentimental portrait of ordinary people, and the unnecessary dissolution of their communities,” as the exhibition’s curator Anna Douglas explains.
Throughout her long career, Baker focused on people and their relationship with objects and surroundings. Her photographs are more than a depiction of social change, offering viewers a poetic vision of everyday human interactions. It’s mainly women and children, and sometimes men, which are captured by Baker’s lens as they invade the city’s streets and sidewalks.
Women, Children and Loitering Men is centered on Baker’s most prolific period, from archives unseen until now, among them color photos, which she briefly but intensely experimented with throughout her career. The show is accompanied by souvenirs, contact prints and sketches by the artist.
About the Artist
Shirley Baker was born in Kersal, Salford, and studied photography at Manchester College of Technology in the 50s. Faced with union restrictions which hindered the hiring of graphic reporters, at the start of the 60s she abandoned her aspirations to work at The Guardian, headquartered in Manchester, opting instead to pursue her own humanist documentary projects, which she engaged in during a career lasting some 55 years.