Photographer Chris Killip's seminal 1988 work In Flagrante captured the north of England in flux. Nearly three decades later Killip has made the bold but much rejoiced decision to revisit and rerelease the project, which feels as pertinent today as ever.
A lot has changed in three decades. For one, the industries of the North of England, that Killip so explosively captured almost thirty years ago, have all but disappeared. Upon its publication in 1988, In Flagrante was hailed as a masterpiece – perfectly capturing the communities in which he lived and worked. Now Killip has rereleased his rare and out of print first collection, with the benefit of 28 years hindsight.
In 1975 Killip was awarded the Northern Arts Fellowship and moved to Newcastle, ostensibly for two years. He ended up staying for fifteen and became involved in the area, building close relationships with the people he met along the way.
“It was the people, the visibility of heavy industry, the fact that it was the most northerly city in England and very different, in so many ways, from everywhere else”, says Killip, when I ask him what drew him to Newcastle, the northern city where he spent most of his time.
An undeniable classic of photography, Killip’s book explores a dark side of British life: poverty, discontent, and the dismantling of communities. Having captured such a fleeting moment in British social history from the years 1973-85, it never occurred to Killip that the time would come to revisit the work again.
But almost thirty years of breathing space have proven vital for the photographer. Like many artists, Killip has suffered from over politicisation of his work, with many critics identifying what he captured as a condemnation of notorious former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, although Killip has insisted this isn’t true.
Such was the delicate, expressive nature of Killip’s first edition, that he felt small, seemingly insignificant, changes were necessary. First, two pictures have been added (although we won’t spoil them for you), and the two introductions, by Sylvia Grant and John Berger, have been cut. Now, the pictures can speak for themselves for the first time.
The world has changed in the decades that have passed, and so too has the medium that made his work famous. Killip, however, thinks the future of photography looks bright.
“Camera phones and Instagram are tools. Even today with perseverance and determination you might be able to say something that rings true.”
In Flagrante Two is available now from Steidl.