Shirley Baker 1932-2014

Images
Biography

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).

 

exhibitions

2021 

After Industry: Communities in Northern England 1960s-80s at Tate Britain, Spotlight exhibition – on till July 2022

 

2021 

For the Love of Dog, Pour L’amour du Chien at The Kennel Club, Clarges Street, London – on now until 1 April 2022

 

2021 

A Woman’s Work at Kimpton Clock Tower, Manchester. Exhibition delayed till further notice

 

2020 

How We Were by Shirley Baker – Museum of Youth Culture, London

 

2020 

A Trip To The Beach, by Shirley Baker – The Photographers Gallery

 

2020 

A Different Age by Shirley Baker – James Hyman Gallery

 

2020 

Play Well – Group exhibition at the Wellcome Collection, three of Shirley Baker’s works are included

 

2019 

Seaside – group exhibition at Turner Contemporary, Margate

 

2018 

Shirley Baker: Manchester – Le Lavandou, Espace Culturel, Le Lavandou 83980, Var, South of France

 

2018 

Shirley Baker: Personal Collection, Print Sales Gallery, The Photographers Gallery, London 

 

2018 

North: Fashioning Identity – group exhibition of Northern artists at Somerset House, London

 

2018 

Here We Are – group exhibition by Burberry, London, Hong Kong, Paris

 

2017

Airport ’87by Shirley Baker – Central Library, Manchester.

 

2017 

Here We Are – group exhibition by Burberry, Old Sessions house, Clerkenwell, London.

 

2017 

Women and Children; and Loitering Men by Shirley Baker – Manchester Art Gallery,

 

2017 

On The Beach by Shirley Baker – Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool

 

2017 

North: Identity, Photography, Fashion – group exhibition of Northern artists, Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool Waterfront

 

2016 

Work, Rest & Play, by Shirley Baker – Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Xiamen, China.

 

2016

Spotlight on Shirley Baker, James Hyman Gallery, Paris Photo, Paris

 

2016 

Punk, by Shirley Baker – The Photographers’ Gallery, London

 

2016 

Women, Children; and Loitering Men, by Shirley Baker – Madrid,

 

2016 

On the Beach, by Shirley Baker – Photofusion, London

 

2015 

Women and Children; and Loitering Men, by Shirley Baker – The Photographers’ Gallery, London

 

2013 

Looking Outwards, Gallery Oldham, Greater Manchester

 

2012

Observers: British Photography and the British Scene, Serviço Social da Indústria (SESI), São Paulo

 

2012

A Lowry Summer, The Lowry, Manchester

 

2012

Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham

 

2011 

Retrospective, Salford Museum and Art Gallery, Salford, Greater Manchester

 

2007 

How We Are: Photographing Britain, Tate Britain, London

 

2007

Louvre, Paris (Photographers Gallery)

 

2007 

Myth of the North, Lowry, Salford

 

2000 

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

 

1997 

Approaching Documentary: work of a Documentary Photography Archive. Viewpoint Gallery Salford

 

1996 

Grazing – Photographs capturing the spirit of the street by Shirley Baker, Piece Hall, Halifax

 

1996 

Manchester (Street Photographs) Photographers Gallery, London

 

1993 

What’s age got to do with it? Cheshire Arts Services – Chester Cathedral and touring exhibition

 

1991

Grazing(London Street photographs): Cornerhouse, Manchester and touring exhibition

 

1989 

Manchester Airport, Cornerhouse, Manchester

 

1989 

Royal Manchester Childrens Hospital, Viewpoint Gallery, Salford 

 

1989

North West Frontiers, Cornerhouse, Manchester

 

1987

Arthur Anderson: Celebration 21 years in Manchester

 

1986

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.

 

1986 

My Face or Yours, Cheshire Arts Services touring exhibition

 

1963

Nine Photographers, Manchester Design Centre, Manchester

Works
Exhibitions