For FORMAT19 festival, we delved into our Camerawork archives to explore the magazine's radical approaches to documentary, and its relation to our current social and political moment.
Emerging from the 1970s community arts movement, Camerawork eschewed prevalent views of photography as a specialist practice, instead asserting the medium’s potential to effect social change.
Industrial unrest, anti-racism, feminism, community activism: Camerawork took a grassroots approach to documenting the political struggles of Thatcher-era Britain, focusing on issues unrepresented in the mainstream press. Work by local people was shown alongside established practitioners including Jo Spence, Daniel Meadows, Susan Meiselas and Peter Kennard.
The magazine was also a forum for critical debates on representation and the use of photography in oppositional politics. It now offers a unique insight into a turbulent era in British history that has significant parallels with today.
Our own era of austerity and Brexit has seen a revitalised interest in photography as a socially-engaged practice. Radical Visions brought together original material from the Camerawork archives alongside recent work by six documentary photographers commissioned by Invisible Britain, to investigate the medium’s potential as an agent for social engagement and political change.