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Exhibition: Now Then: Chris Killip and the Making of In Flagrante/ 23 May-13 August 13, 2017 / at the J. Paul Getty Museum

Poetic, penetrating, and often heartbreaking, Chris Killip’s In Flagrante remains the most important photobook to document the devastating impact of deindustrialization on working-class communities in northern England in the 1970s and 1980s. Now Then: Chris Killip and the Making of In Flagrante, on view May 23-August 13, 2017 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center features more than 100 works that explore the artist’s process and the decision to reconsider and reshape work made decades earlier. The exhibition includes maquettes, contact sheets, and work prints, as well as material from two related and rarely exhibited projects—Seacoal and Skinningrove. The fifty photographs that constitute the first edition of In Flagrante (1988) are all drawn from the Museum’s collection and were acquired with the assistance of the Getty Museum Photographs Council.

The successful documentary photographer must often somehow gain access to communities that would otherwise shun outsiders,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Killip was able to do this for his In Flagrante series, embedding himself in villages along the coast of England for several years, where locals shared with him the disintegration of their livelihoods and resulting social tensions in an unprecedented way. These photographs – rare insights into their world – are a testament to his dedication and to their trust in him to portray them with honesty and integrity.

In Flagrante
Upon receiving a Northern Arts Fellowship in 1975, Killip (born 1946, Isle of Man) relocated from London to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. By that time, the process of deindustrialization in northeast England—considered the backbone of British shipbuilding and mining industries—was underway. Denied permission to photograph inside factories and shipyards, Killip instead chose to chronicle towns in the throes of decline and working-class communities teetering on the brink.

In 1988, he published a group of fifty pictures in the book In Flagrante, which represented the malaise and disrepair of the socioeconomic system of the time, and the perceived disposability of the working class. While some photographs resulted from chance encounters between Killip and his subjects, many evolved from personal, intense relationships he formed with the individuals and places depicted. In 2008, In Flagrante became accessible to a new generation through a reprint by Errata Editions, which creates facsimiles of classic, out-of-print titles to encourage and facilitate their further study. After rereleasing In Flagrante, Killip resolved to update the book and correct its mischaracterization as a record of the “Thatcher Years.” Released in 2015, In Flagrante Two included three photographs not reproduced in the first book. Images from both editions will be on view.

Between 1976 and 1981, Killip attempted to photograph at Lynemouth, a coastal village where a community of people made a meager living by collecting coal that washed ashore after it was expelled as waste from the nearby mine. The “seacoalers” always chased Killip away, fearful that he was spying on them to gather evidence of their undocumented income, which undermined their claims for unemployment benefits. He finally gained access to the community in 1982, and the following year moved into a caravan on the beach, where he lived intermittently for fourteen months to document the inner workings of the seacoal camp.

By 1984, as the proposed closure of coal mines across the Midlands provoked mineworkers to strike, the supply of coal had dwindled and the seacoalers were forced to find alternate sources of income. While fourteen photographs from this period were included in In Flagrante, much of the material remained virtually untouched until Killip revisited the material decades later, in the context of a retrospective exhibition held at the Folkwang Museum in Essen, Germany. In 2011 he produced the book Seacoal expressly about his experience in Lynemouth. More than twenty prints from the series, as well as related ephemera, will be presented in the context of this exhibition.

The isolated village of Skinningrove, once considered the “valley of iron,” sits along the northeast coast of England. Many residents held jobs at the local ironworks and steel-rolling mill, but the closure of both sites forced people to work as fishermen by the mid-1970s. Described by Killip as “fiercely independent, fiercely protective, and . . . very hostile to strangers,” the town and its inhabitants fascinated him. He began visiting Skinningrove routinely in the summertime and, over the years, ingratiated himself with the young men who often appear in his images. Killip became a familiar presence and, despite his oversize view camera, could work discreetly to capture intimate moments. Never published in its entirety, the body of work is represented in In Flagrante by only two photographs. A short film by Michael Almereyda that features Killip recalling stories about the people of Skinningrove, and sometimes disclosing tragic details about their fates, will be on view alongside prints from this series.

Now Then: Chris Killip and the Making of In Flagrante is on view May 23-August 13, 2017 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition is curated by Amanda Maddox, assistant curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The exhibition will be on view alongside Thomas Annan: Photographer of Glasgow, also in the Getty’s Center for Photographs.

Image: Chris Killip (British, born 1946) Father and Son Watching a Parade, West End, Newcastle, negative 1980; print 1986.  © Chris Killip. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased in part with funds provided by Alison Bryan Crowell, Trish and Jan de Bont, Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, Manfred Heiting, Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck, and Lyle and Lisi Poncher.

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