From The Archives, published by The Modernist Society in March 2018, is a collaboration with the MMU Special Collections presenting images from their Visual Resources Library slide collection.

Together with Dr Richard Brook of the Manchester School of Architecture, we have curated a series of 6 photobooks each focussing on post war new towns and social housing. The majority of these images are rarely seen and have never been in print before. The images are historical, from the 1960s and 70s, and were scanned from the original slides.

The individual books are beautifully litho printed in full colour and are themselves limited edition. We will release one book a month between April and September 2018 and also all six books in a box set - hand numbered and limited to 100.

The individual titles are:

Cwmbran, Peterlee, Hulme, Hyde Park Sheffield, Runcorn, Skelmersdale.

These photobooks were curated from slides that are part of Manchester Metropolitan University’s Special Collections. They were housed in the Visual Resources Centre that was created from a number of distinct image collections, the largest of which was the Manchester School of Art’s former slide library. Begun in the mid 1960s and built-up in direct response to the visual needs of lecturers and students in the pre-digital art school, the collection comprises over 275,000 analogue slides covering most of the subject areas then taught within the School, including large sections on architecture and urban planning.
Whilst many of the slides in the collection were made by copying images in various printed sources, a significant proportion are unique and original photographs taken by members of staff or, occasionally, by students. Among these original slides there are thousands of images of buildings, streets and spaces. Usually, as with the images presented here, the photographers were intent on recording new and emerging features in the built environment - the redevelopment of towns and cities, the construction of new towns, suburbs and major housing projects. In doing so, they created a quirky but compelling visual archive of physical, infrastructural and social change in the last four decades of the twentieth century.

Collectively the images we have curated have an amateur feel that at times verges on the banal and, regularly, the seemingly mundane. It is these very qualities that make them interesting. Though perceptibly boring, there is a utility in the specialism of the subjects captured. They are from an era of new development when Britain was at the vanguard of planning and devising new ways of living for the motor age and the rise of the consumer.
Whether streets-in-the-sky or Radburn inspired cul-de-sacs, reports about the state sponsored mass housing schemes were published in a multitude of languages, which allowed others to learn from Britain’s experiments. These photographs served a purpose; they were learning aids used by lecturers - some were captured by lecturers and others by staff photographers. As such, the apparently banal images of corridors, garages, bin bags, estate pubs, playgrounds, gantries, bridges and repetitive housing clusters all had a reason attached to their production. Alone, any single image in this extended series may be so dull as to call to question its inclusion, together they offer a curated view of the operation of a town: its refuse collection; its circulation; its security; its vistas; its leisure; its space. In drawing together these sets and curating the images presented here we aim to celebrate the quotidian nature of the slides themselves and the mainstream production of housing in post-war Britain. The series asks what the everyday has to reveal about the society that produced both the space and the record of the space. These photographs offer a view of normality that has at its heart politics, a social agenda and a spatial ideology enshrined in lived experience.

We have made every attempt to preserve the qualities of the original photos. The images haven’t had marks removed and haven’t been cropped or straightened. There has been some colour balancing and a little tonal adjustment for print, especially on those shots that were under or overexposed. The honesty of film as a medium that reacts to light and time is core to our passion for this series.

Full Colour Litho Print on Munken Smooth supplied by G F Smith

Curated by Dr Richard Brook and The Modernist Society

Designed by Birthday

Printed by Evolution Print


148 x 210 mmm A5

Images © MMU Special Collections and not to be reproduced without permission