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RIP Chris Killip: a hugely influential black and white documentary shooter

AP is sad to report the death of noted British social and documentary photographer, Chris Killip, at the age of 74. Killip, below, achieved a solid reputation as a photographer of working class life, particularly in the north east, and the Isle of Man – where he was born in 1946.

Killip first worked as a trainee hotel manager at the only four star hotel on the Isle of Man. In June 1964, he decided to turn his hobby of photography into a career and although his options were very limited locally, he did find work as a beach photographer. This enabled him to scrape enough cash together to leave the island and move to London, where he was hired as the third assistant to leading advertising photographer Adrian Flowers. Killip continued to assist until 1969, and then, after seeing an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, he decided to return to the Isle of Man to do a proper photographic study of the place.

Youth on wall, Jarrow, Tyneside, 1976 by Chris Killip

This was well received and in 1972, The Arts Council commissioned him to photograph Huddersfield and Bury St Edmunds for an exhibition called Two Views – Two Cities. In 1975, he moved to Newcastle on a two year fellowship as the Northern Arts Photography Fellow, and became closely involved in the Side Gallery. Killip produced some of his finest images in the North East, particularly of impoverished communities struggling to cope with the many changes to British society during the 1980s. During this time he published his most famous book, In Flagrante, which came out in 1988. “History is what’s written, my pictures are what happened,” he memorably explained. “It’s like a people’s history – the people who history happened to.”

Father and Son Watching a Parade, West End, Newcastle; Chris Killip

Arguably the highest point of Killip’s career came in 1991 when he was invited to become a visiting lecturer at Harvard University in the US – he ended up becoming a tenured professor there and made the US his home. Killip’s images are featured in the standing exhibitions of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, George Eastman House, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol and other prestigious collections. Not bad for a boy from the Isle of Man who left school at 16. Listen to a fascinating interview with Killip here, while his website is here

Further reading
A year in the life of a London priest

Source
Amateur Photographer

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