'The Mart, St. John's'
Museum no. 705-1980
This photograph was taken in the early 1970s when Chris Killip had first become a freelance photographer and was working in the Isle of Man. The size of the image, the tonal range and the sharpness of the print are all reminiscent of earlier photographers and, in particular, the work of Paul Strand.
The men in the image are gathered for the sale of livestock. Some seem to acknowledge the camera and others do not. The sunlight coming in through the windows in the roof casts a theatrical lighting over the scene. Killip has always stressed that when you look at a photograph you are seeing the opinion of the photographer. He has created an almost timeless, possibly religious, image of the disappearing lifestyles on the Isle of Man.
Chris Killip began his career as a commercial photographer when he moved to London from the Isle of Man in the early 1960s.
He became a freelance photographer in 1969 and moved back to the Isle of Man. Over the following two years he photographed the people and the landscape of the island, representing the islander's disappearing traditional lifestyles.
He returned to England and in 1975 moved to the north east, initially to take up a two-year fellowship, and remained there. The book 'In Flagrante' (1988) is a compilation of his work in the north east including his powerful series of images of sea-coalers at Lynemouth. Killip has stressed that these photographs are not specifically about the north east and rather about de-industrialisation, the decline of traditional industries, in England.
His work, however, does show the wealth divide between the north and south of England, which widened in the 1980s. Killip's position as one of the most important realist photographers was recognised in 1989 when he was the first recipient of the Henri Cartier-Bresson Award. He now teaches at the University of Harvard.
This photograph can be found in Print Room Box 13b.