Shirley Baker 1932-2014
Born in Kersal, Lancashire in 1932, Baker is today recognized as one of the preeminent British photographers of the post war period, and one of a very small number of women street photographer in post-war England. Beginning her work in the late 1950s her pictures reveal the legacy of Bill Brandt's pioneering study of The English at Home (1938) and the Picture Post magazine photo stories of Bert Hardy, Grace Robertson, Thurston Hopkins and others. Based in the streets of Manchester and Salford, Baker's photographs also provide a northern counterpart for the type of street photography practised in London at the same period by Roger Mayne, which also saw a focus on children. However Baker's photography has a particular, individual quality that distinguishes her work and her sensitivity to her subjects.
After studying photography at Manchester College of Technology, Baker initially pursued a career as photographer at the Guardian. This proved difficult at a time when photography was considered a job limited to men. In 1960 Baker began teaching at Salford College of Art, during this time she started documenting the urban clearance programmes of inner-city Manchester and Salford.
Baker's humanist documentary work allows an intimate look on the daily life of working class communities during the 1960s and up to the late 1970s. The black and white images find their visual power in the layers of their composition. The juxtaposition between the half-demolished grim backgrounds and the subject matter, mostly children playing and women daily life, allow an emphatic engagement. Through her devotion to a rightful representation of her subjects, allowing a level of humour in her images, Baker's photography grants visibility to the resilience of human spirit at a time of radical change for working-class communities in Northern England.
Hampered by the denial of a role for women in a man-lead industry, Baker's contribute to photography was not recognized until recent years. Her work was exhibited in multiple group exhibitions such as the Observers: British Photography and the British Scene, at the Serviço Social da Ind(SESI), SPaulo in 2012; Looking Outwards at the Oldham Gallery in Manchester in 2013; and the major exhibition: Shirley Baker. Women, Children and Loitering Men, The Photographers' Gallery, London 2015 (and tour).
After Industry: Communities in Northern England 1960s-80s at Tate Britain, Spotlight exhibition – on till July 2022
For the Love of Dog, Pour L’amour du Chien at The Kennel Club, Clarges Street, London – on now until 1 April 2022
A Woman’s Work at Kimpton Clock Tower, Manchester. Exhibition delayed till further notice
How We Were by Shirley Baker – Museum of Youth Culture, London
A Trip To The Beach, by Shirley Baker – The Photographers Gallery
A Different Age by Shirley Baker – James Hyman Gallery
Play Well – Group exhibition at the Wellcome Collection, three of Shirley Baker’s works are included
Seaside – group exhibition at Turner Contemporary, Margate
Shirley Baker: Manchester – Le Lavandou, Espace Culturel, Le Lavandou 83980, Var, South of France
Shirley Baker: Personal Collection, Print Sales Gallery, The Photographers Gallery, London
North: Fashioning Identity – group exhibition of Northern artists at Somerset House, London
Here We Are – group exhibition by Burberry, London, Hong Kong, Paris
Airport ’87by Shirley Baker – Central Library, Manchester.
Here We Are – group exhibition by Burberry, Old Sessions house, Clerkenwell, London.
Women and Children; and Loitering Men by Shirley Baker – Manchester Art Gallery,
On The Beach by Shirley Baker – Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool
North: Identity, Photography, Fashion – group exhibition of Northern artists, Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool Waterfront
Work, Rest & Play, by Shirley Baker – Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Xiamen, China.
Spotlight on Shirley Baker, James Hyman Gallery, Paris Photo, Paris
Punk, by Shirley Baker – The Photographers’ Gallery, London
Women, Children; and Loitering Men, by Shirley Baker – Madrid,
On the Beach, by Shirley Baker – Photofusion, London
Women and Children; and Loitering Men, by Shirley Baker – The Photographers’ Gallery, London
Looking Outwards, Gallery Oldham, Greater Manchester
Observers: British Photography and the British Scene, Serviço Social da Indústria (SESI), São Paulo
A Lowry Summer, The Lowry, Manchester
Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham
Retrospective, Salford Museum and Art Gallery, Salford, Greater Manchester
How We Are: Photographing Britain, Tate Britain, London
Louvre, Paris (Photographers Gallery)
Myth of the North, Lowry, Salford
Salford Revisited for the opening of the Lowry, Salford, Greater Manchester. Baker was the sole photographer twinning with artist LS Lowry – HRH The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
Approaching Documentary: work of a Documentary Photography Archive. Viewpoint Gallery Salford
Grazing – Photographs capturing the spirit of the street by Shirley Baker, Piece Hall, Halifax
Manchester (Street Photographs) Photographers Gallery, London
What’s age got to do with it? Cheshire Arts Services – Chester Cathedral and touring exhibition
Grazing(London Street photographs): Cornerhouse, Manchester and touring exhibition
Manchester Airport, Cornerhouse, Manchester
Royal Manchester Childrens Hospital, Viewpoint Gallery, Salford
North West Frontiers, Cornerhouse, Manchester
Arthur Anderson: Celebration 21 years in Manchester
Here Yesterday Gone Today, (Street photographs manchester and Salford) A documentary photography archive exhibition supported by North West Arts. Opened at Salford Art Gallery, and toured nationally.
My Face or Yours, Cheshire Arts Services touring exhibition
Nine Photographers, Manchester Design Centre, Manchester
Shirley BakerExhibition Prints from Women and Children; and Loitering Men 21 Feb - 18 Mar 2022James Hyman Gallery is delighted to present a special opportunity to acquire the original framed exhibition prints from Shirley Baker’s most important exhibition, Women and children; and loitering men. All...
Shirley Baker. A Different Age6 Jun - 24 Jul 2020The exhibition focuses on Shirley Baker's celebrated street scenes photographed around Manchester and Salford and explores her depiction of older adults. Nan Levy, Shirley Baker's daughter, who has curated the...
Spotlight on Shirley BakerA Special Presentation for Paris Photo 9 - 13 Nov 2016This special presentation focuses on vintage silver gelatin prints from the Estate of Shirley Baker and in particualrly looks at the diversity of her depiction of children in the streets...