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Institut für
Kunstdokumentation und

Facing Britain

British documentary photography since the1960s


Facing Britain is the first exhibition produced and curated by the new IKS Photo Department and available as a touring exhibition. An individually curated exhibition will be put together for each venue, which will be combined with new positions, also to be open for new photographers and themes! For further infromations, you are welcome to contact us!


collaborating institutions:


27 Sep - 24 Nov 2020 / Museum Goch

3 Sep 2021 - 9 Jan 2022 / Kunsthalle Darmstadt

20 Feb - 1 May 2022 / Mönchehaus Museum Goslar

16 June - 18 Sept / Museum for Photography Krakow



MuFo - Museum für Fotografie Krakau


"Stunning documentary photographs of British life from the Facing Britain exhibition."

The Sunday Times Magazine, 21.11.2021



Kunsthalle Darmstadt


"Facing Britain is a revealing exhibition about the attitude of a society caught between protest, desperate workers and hip bankers. And you should have seen this show, because it shows us insights into a reality of life that we did not know before, but which are necessary for a deeper understanding of the social upheavals on the island."

Martina Conrad, SWR 2, 6.09.2021


Installation view Museum Goch



Corinna Denzer-Schmidt, Niederrhein Nachrichten


"Impressive group exhibition!"

Patrick Bahners, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung


Michelle Sank, Kalpesh Lathigra, Sirkka-Liisa Kontinnen, Mönchehaus Museum Goslar


"The exhibition curated by Ralph Goertz overwhelms with its thematic diversity, strikes tones from the finest humour to the greatest dejection, shows people from the lightness of being to the search for recyclables on the rubbish dump. [...] Alongside this humorous, often to the point, contemplation of typically British idiosyncrasies, the exhibition also shows painful conditions to the point of punching in the pit of the stomach."

Jörg Kaspert, Harzer Panorama


Foto: Mr. & Mrs. Hudson. Seacroft Green. Leeds, 1974 © Peter Mitchell


Facing Britain brings together for the first time almost all important representatives* of British documentary photography in a large overview exhibition outside the UK.


Long forgotten and only recently rediscovered positions such as John Myers, Tish Murtha or Peter Mitchell are shown alongside works by world stars such as Martin Parr and David Hurn. The show thus offers a unique insight into the developments in the field of photography in the United Kingdom, which are interwoven with continental Europe and North America, but also independent of them. The documentary aspect proves to be one of the great strengths of British photography, which is capable of depicting a part of Europe in transition in a multifaceted, surprising and artistically original way. Facing Britain was therefore deliberately chosen as a temporal bracket for the period of Britain's membership of the European Union and their forerunners between1963 till 2020. Particularly in view of the current Corona pandemic, the exhibition proves to be a break in the artistic development of an entire nation.


Family outing the derby horse race, 1970s © Homer Sykes


It describes the various epochs from the decline of the coal industry, the Thatcher era with the Falkland conflict, the Brexit that split the island into two parts. A special focus is on the 1970s and 1980s, which were influenced by David Hurn, Tish Murtha, Daniel Meadows, Peter Mitchell, Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr, when artistic documentary photography gained an importance worldwide.


„A formative period for British photography, in which the strength of the documentary movement really came alive“. Martin Parr


New Brighton. From 'The Last Resort'. 1983-85 © Martin Parr / Magnum Photos


"Life without make-up between Aberdeen and Brighton, Belfast and Ipswich: British documentary photography from six decades on the "English Way of Life" is a remarkable rediscovery."

Rheinische-Art, cpw


"Loving portait of the unique foreignness of Great Britain"

Franz Geib, Gocher Wochenblatt


Anna Fox, Barry Lewis, Paul Reas. Museum Goch


Early on, Parr had knowledge of the work propagated in the Rhine and Ruhr metropolises of Duesseldorf, Cologne and Essen, which also influenced John Myers, Anna Fox and Paul Hill. In England, the work of David Hurn, Chris Killip, John Myers or Daniel Meadows, which was less well known in this country, was regarded as the photographic reference. The photographer Tony Ray-Jones, who died early in 1972, was considered the British Garry Winogrand and pioneer of contemporary photography in Great Britain with his impulsive and direct street photography.


"And just as the intense portraits of Daniel Meadows add up to a picture of society, the synopsis of "Facing Britain" results in a finely detailed, very sensually comprehensible picture of a country."

Johannes Breckner, Echo Culture Darmstadt, 4.09.2021


The Brasher sisters, left: Lyn, right: Stella, Southampton. May 1974 © Daniel Meadows


In contrast to the United States - where the first large-scale photo exhibitions such as Family of Man (curated by Edward Steichen, 1955) or The Photographer's Eye (curated by John Szarkowsky, 1964) were already held at the MoMA in New York. In Germany, the Deutscher Werkbund already showed Foto und Film in 1929 in Stuttgart, an overview exhibition on the working and application areas of photography and film. Artistic photography in Germany only achieved its breakthrough, however, with its presentation at documenta 5 (1972) in Kassel.


Black Copper, London 1985 © Dave Sinclair


"Remarkable exhibition!"

Stephan Hermssen, NRZ, culture


Kunsthalle Darmstadt


In Great Britain, photography was not considered an autonomous art form until the 1980s. Not even before 1985 British photographers were honoured with exhibitions at the Photographer's Gallery and Barbican Art Gallery in London or the British Council. Only individual photographers such as Tony Ray-Jones or Peter Mitchell were honored with small solo exhibitions from 1969/70 on. The first major survey exhibition on British documentary photography in Great Britain did not take place until 2007 under the title How We Are: Photographing Britain at the Tate Britain, London. Subsequently, the British Council's exhibition No Such Thing As Society: Photography in Britain 1967-1987 toured the UK, Poland and Sweden from 2008 to 2010.


Tenby. Castle Hillat the elegant seaside town of Tenby, South Wales. 1974 © David Hurn / Magnum Photos


This late tribute to the pioneers of British documentary photography also demonstrated the difficulties of photography in Britain. British photography - apart from its established Magnum photographers such as David Hurn or Martin Parr - had difficulties to assert itself on the international market, not least because of its socially critical or political content and socially critical approaches, which are unmistakable in the work of Ken Grant, Tish Murtha, Homer Sykes, Paul Reas or Anna Fox.


Fortunes are being made that are in line with the dreams of avarice. Business, 1987 © Anna Fox


Facing Britain presents a portrait of the unique foreignness of Great Britain - divided, unequal and interspersed with classes, but marked by deep affection, humanity and humour. The photographs speak for themselves, bear witness to artistic concepts and attitudes and convey historical contexts. They call for a view of today's United Kingdom beyond the clichés. Inequality and identity are still the key concepts that dominate the nation and define what makes the exhibition more relevant than ever. Previously virulent themes such as youth unemployment, the decline of the mining industry or protest and demonstration against the policies of Margaret Thatcher are historically illuminated in the exhibition and critically questioned by the participating photographers.


Vauxhall, Liverpool, 1987 © Rob Bremner


Recent works by Kirsty Mackay, Paul Reas, Robert Darch or Niall McDiramid also reflect current issues on topics such as gender justice, consumer society, Brexit or migration.


‘I Can Help’. A critical view of consumer culture. 1988 © Paul Reas


Martin Parr, Tom Wood, Margaret Mitchell, Simon Roberts, Mönchehaus Museum Goslar


"The collection moves between deep cuts in British history and society. [...] But in between is the full, endearing and whimsical life of the kingdom. Sometimes critically appraised, sometimes exposing, but never embarrassing, and often with enigmatic humour."

Petra Hartmann, Goslarsche Zeitung


Harlesden, North West London, 1989 – 1993 © Roy Mehta


Babington Lane, Derby - June 2014 © Niall McDiarmid


"Facing Britain" provides many facets of Britishness, and thus a telling reflection of the distinctive traditions, mentalities and habits of the inhabitants. English, Scottish, Welsh - and migrants. At the same time, the exhibition captures the deep contradictions and fierce conflicts of British society in concise images. Wonderful exhibition.

PHOTONEWS, Klaus Honnef, 30 Nov 2021


Robert Darch, Mohamed Hassan. Museum Goch


Niall McDiarmid. Museum Goch


Facing Britain presents for the first time the development of British photography in the UK over the past 60 years including the influence of photographers of colour, important female photographers and the young generation. To present and to understand the significant shift from social documentary to artistic photography will give a new perspective on British photography!


"A powerful imagery."


"No fewer than 47 of these photographers are now represented with individual works or series in the show “Facing Britain” curated by Ralph Goertz in the Kunsthalle Darmstadt, which adds up to an impressive retrospective of British documentary photography from the early 1960s to 2020."

Chritsian Riethmüller, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 31 August 2021


Rock Against Racism/Anti Nazi League Carnival Against the Nazis Potternewton Park Leeds 1981 © Syd Shelton


Whitley Bay, 1978 © Markéta Luskačová


Dundonald Road, 2019 © Kavi Pujara


Mönchehaus Museum Goslar


Kunsthalle Darmstadt


MuFo Kraków


"The exhibition shows how British photographers perceived the reality around them when the mines were closing down around them, the country was ruled by Margaret Thatcher, the consumption of goods was growing exponentially and society was divided into different camps. 'Facing Britain' gives viewers a glimpse into the social and political realities of Britain, but does not escape its depiction of the everyday life of the multicultural community formed by the citizens of the former empire."

Anna Piątkowska, Dziennik Polski, 20 June 2022

The exhibition Facing Britain was curated by Ralph Goertz, who has previously curated exhibitions such as the "Martin Parr Retrospective", "Two Rivers. Alec Soth / Joachim Brohm", "Joel Meyerowitz Retrospective", "Peter Lindbergh / Garry Winogrand: Women" at the NRW-Forum Düsseldorf, "Axel Hütte. Night and Day" at the Museum Kunstpalast, "Subject and Object. Photo Rhine Ruhr" at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf and "Image and Space. Candida Höfer in Dialogue with the Photography Collection of the Art Library" at the Museum for Photography Berlin.


FACING BRITAIN is available for other tour venues from 2023 on!


The list of the participating photographers:

Mike Abrahams, Meredith Andrews, James Barnor, Rob Bremner, Rachel Louise Brown, John Bulmer, Tessa Bunney, Elaine Constantine, Thom Corbishley, Robert Darch, John Davies, Craig Easton, Anna Fox, Ken Grant, Judy Greenway, Mohamed Hassan, Paul Hill, David Hurn, Tony-Ray Jones, Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, Kalpesh Lathigra, Barry Lewis, Markéta Luskačová, Kirsty Mackay, Fran May, Stephen McCoy, Niall McDiarmid, Daniel Meadows, Roy Mehta, Sandra Mickiewicz, Margaret Mitchell, Peter Mitchell, David Moore, Tish Murtha, John Myers, Mark Neville, Kevin O'Farrell, Martin Parr, Mark Pinder, Yan Wang Preston, Ryan Prince, Kavi Pujara, Paul Reas, Sophy Rickett, Simon Roberts, Michelle Sank, Syd Shelton, Hazel Simcox, Dave Sinclair, Homer Sykes, Alys Tomlinson, Jon Tonks, Dan Wood und Tom Wood.


The catalogue has been published with Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König.

With texts by Graham Harrison und Ralph Goertz.

Distributed in the UK by Thames & Hudson.

ISBN 978-3-7533-0062-7


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