by Sue Hubbard
“We are homesick most for the places we have never known.”
― Carson McCullers
It is a truth pretty much universally acknowledged that the past is another country. But that this country, this green and pleasant land should be seen as ‘other', experienced through ‘foreign' eyes, provides an interesting perspective on our identity.
The power of the photograph is that it allows us to see ourselves as others see us. My goodness did I really look like that, wear those glasses, have that hair style? Don't I look young/slim/naïve? Did we honestly behave like that? How odd. I had quite forgotten until now…
Curated by the British photographer Martin Parr – best known for his satirical, yet affectionate technicolour images of the British enjoying their leisure in tacky seaside resorts – Strange and Familiar at the Barbican Gallery, London, includes the work of twenty-three international photographers from the 1930s onwards who have responded to the social structures, clichés and cultural changes within this sceptred isle. There's street photography, portraiture, along with architectural studies by a number of celebrated modernist photographers that reveal the diversity within this small island from the Outer Hebrides to Northern Ireland, from Welsh coal mining communities in their death throes, to boys at Eton. It also brings together an extensive photobook section of many rare and out-of-print publications.