A visual history of activism in the North

A visual history of activism in the North
Power in protest — In his stark black and white images, photographer Martin Jenkinson captures the spirit, desperation and empowerment of protest.

The key to understanding Martin Jenkinson’s photography practice is this: “He wasn’t just doing it for a news story.”

This statement, from his daughter Justine Jenkinson, might seem like an unusual one considering the fact he was a photojournalist, but he was as much protestor as he was a photographer. He stood shoulder to shoulder with the Sheffield steelworkers that he had been made redundant with in 1979. And he was as much campaigner as he was documenter when he marched on the picket line with the miners at Orgreave about to suffer the same fate as the steelworkers.

Jenkinson understood what he was taking photos of; he knew what it was like to have your livelihood ripped away; he understood that feeling of desperation and empowerment when raising a placard above your head. “It wasn’t like my dad was parachuted in to take photos of these events, he was there anyway,” Justine says. And you can tell. He finds minute details and faces – the characteristics that define the individuals in the midst of the protest. In one photograph shot from behind a row of police helmets, a young woman looks wearily into Jenkinson’s camera: she seems on the verge of tears and her exhaustion tells the story of a battle not yet won.

Waiting for the speeches to begin. Yorkshire Miners Demonstration and Gala, Doncaster, 19 June 1982 © Martin Jenkinson Photo Library

Maxine Duffus, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport’s first black woman bus driver. Herries Road bus garage, Sheffield., 18/11/1983 © Martin Jenkinson Photo Library

It’s this humanity that Justine appreciates most in her dad’s work. Now the manager of Jenkinson’s extensive archive since he passed away in 2012, Justine is very well acquainted with her dad’s thousands of images. She still has a favourite though. “I like the style of a photo taken at a miners’ gala in Doncaster in 1982. There are two old men and a child waiting for the speeches, one of the old men is smoking and the child has an ice cream. What I love about it is that although it was a commissioned job for the NUM, he still found a bit of humour. It shows that he had a real interest in people. To me, that is really typical of my dad.”

A football supporter places a wreath outside the Hillsborough Stadium on the day after 96 football fans were killed at the start of the FA Cup semi- final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forrest, 15/04/1989 © Martin Jenkinson Photo Library

In his quest to find the people, Jenkinson inevitably uncovered moments of real despair. He was at Sheffield Wednesday’s football ground in 1989 during the Hillsborough disaster when 96 football fans were crushed to death. On that particular day, he wasn’t working but Justine notes: “he said he probably couldn’t have taken those photos because it really affected him.” Jenkinson returned to the ground the next day to capture people laying flowers. Stood a little way back, he does not disturb the mourners, but frames perfectly the delicacy of individuals bending down to mark the spot where their loved ones were lost.

Nearly 30 years on, there’s still plenty of social and political upheaval to document. What does Justine think her dad would have made of today’s turbulence? “Even though he was due to retire, I’ve got a sneaky feeling he would have been out there taking pictures of the protests. And not just taking the pictures, he would have been out there protesting.”

Unemployed drop in centre The Bow, Holly Street, Sheffield, 29/07/1983 © Martin Jenkinson Photo Library

1,500 People queued for up to two hours for 50 jobs at a new restaurant. Woodstock Diner, Ecclesall Road, Sheffield, 07/02/1983 © Martin Jenkinson Photo Library

Von the Sheffield Star newspaper seller at BSC River Don Works Sheffield, 16/09/1982 © Martin Jenkinson Photo Library

Derelict melting shop at Hadfields, Leeds Road Works, Sheffield, formerly Brown Bayleys. The plant was dismantled and sold to a steel manufacturer in Turkey, 01/09/1982 © Martin Jenkinson Photo Library

Parkin Silversmiths Ltd, Bowling Green Street, Sheffield, 10/06/1985 © Martin Jenkinson Photo Library

The ‘Hole in the Road’, 05/02/1990 © Martin Jenkinson Photo Library


Martin Jenkinson’s photography is currently celebrated in Who We Are: Photographs at Weston Park Museum, Sheffield.

Enjoyed this article? Like Huck on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Latest on Huck

Sign up to our newsletter

Issue 80: The Ziwe issue

Buy it now