The Ian Berry exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, “This is Whitechapel” shares a similar aesthetic to many of the other pictures by Lange. There is poverty, but also play and style and anger and a cat and conversations and places to go.
Although Ian Berry is part of the Magnum Agency it seems to hard to access the pictures from this series. Compared to the pictures at the Magnum link the exhibition is far darker, grittier. Is this the style of photo or the nature of the subject or the technology? The elements influence each other, but how? which comes first? Taken in the 1970’s they seem to reflect my childhood memories of this period. I did’nt know Whitechapel then, but my memories of the time seem dominated by black and white visions, gritty 80’s Yorkshire, absorbed through the news. Poor reception on a black and white television, the layers of conflict, lines of police helmets in the coalfields, the hunt for the ripper, the take back the night marches, the Falklands. Somehow many of my personal memories of the time seem to have lost colour, the mills of Bradford and the holes that were left as they came down (some yet to be filled). It conflicts with the photographs that my parents took of the time and the colours that survive the de-saturation of memory. The colour memories seem separate to those other memories, separate worlds on the same time line. Can it be that the dark feel of the time or the media have de-coloured the past? Or that there is an expectation that serious matters reflect their seriousness in b&w and that colour is personal? Does this still hold true or is it a product of its time?
(Is this difficulty of viewing a Whitechapel area problem? Reading “Rodinsky’s Room” I came across the story of Sharon Chazan, but again the pictures are hard to find).