Tuesday, 16 June 2015

For Ever Amber - at The Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle

Sirkka Liisa Konttinen, Byker Girl on Spacehopper, 1971. Image courtesy of the artist
Sirkka Liisa Konttinen, Byker Girl on Spacehopper, 1971

The Laing Art Gallery
27 June – 19 September
Preview 26 June 6-8pm

Opening up an extraordinary documentary narrative this exhibition is the first major account of the AmberSide Collection started by a group of like-minded students at Regent Street Polytechnic in London in 1968. With a resolve to collect documents of working class culture, Amber Collective moved to the North East of England the following year in 1969 and in 1977 opened Side Gallery where it remains today. In 1982 a Channel 4 franchise enabled Amber to grow its ambitions in filmmaking and 45 years later it’s still producing, commissioning, supporting and collecting. The Amber films and photographs of collective member Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen have been recognised by UNESCO, and, for the first time since its beginnings, this major exhibition at the Laing celebrates the full story. Photographs by Graham Smith, Chris Killip, Martine Franck, John Davies, Tish Murtha, beginning in the 1970s and continuing through to the present are shown alongside the contemporary international work Side has collected and exhibited including amongst others: Sander, Doisneau, Weegee, Russell Lee, Susan Meiselas, Eugene Richards and Graciela Iturbide. Rooted in documenting the vernacular and cultural life of working class and marginalised communities in North East England, this remarkable archive is a conduit for engaging with international documentary photography and film and socially excluded communities worldwide.
Consett, 1989, by Julian Germaine, from the exhibition For Ever Amber at Newcastle's Laing Art Gallery
Julian Germaine, Consett, 1989

‘For Ever Amber’ is a partnership between Amber Film and Photography Collective and Laing Art Gallery, with support from Tyne & Wear Museums and Archive. The exhibition has been supported by Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England.

The title of the exhibition is taken from an inscription by Henri Cartier-Bresson on a photograph that he donated to the Amber collection.


W H Douglas, Gents Hairdresser, Byker, 1974

Newcastle photographic exhibition covers changes over the last 40 years
Newcastle's Laing Art Gallery is set to host For Ever Amber, an exhibition of iconic, gritty photography

David Morton
15 June 2015

Later this month, Newcastle’s Laing Art Gallery will host an exhibition featuring some of the most profoundly affecting photography of the 20th Century.

The exhibition will showcase the ground-breaking work of Amber Collective which came together in 1968 ‘to collect documents of working class culture.’

Basing itself in North East England, it has explored the lives and landscapes of marginalised communities ever since.
Dalton Park, 2005, by Simon Norfolk, from the exhibition For Ever Amber at Newcastle's Laing Art Gallery
Simon Norfolk, Dalton Park, 2005

The opening of Newcastle’s Side Gallery in 1977 proved pivotal. A year later, the famed French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson celebrated his 70th birthday with Amber Film and Photography Collective and a retrospective at Side Gallery.

As a thank you, he sent a photograph inscribed “for ever Amber”. Thirty-seven years later his words come to life in the first major retrospective of Amber’s remarkable collection.
A 1970s North East street scene, from the exhibition For Ever Amber at Newcastle's Laing Art Gallery
1970s Street Scene

The on-going AmberSide Collection now holds over 20,000 photographs, 12,000 transparencies and 100 films.

The exhibition takes place at the Laing between June 27 and September 19, and shows images of working class culture from the North East - and beyond.

It will be split into several sections. The exhibition begins with ‘1968– 1979: Collecting Documents of Working Class Culture’, charting the roots of Amber and the coming together of its early members.
Shipbuilding on the Tyne, 1981, by Bruce Rae, from the exhibition For Ever Amber at Newcastle's Laing Art Gallery
Bruce Rae, Shipbuilding on the Tyne, 1981

‘1980 - 1991: Landscapes, Lives and Struggles’ explores the opposition to the Thatcher government’s social, industrial and economic policies, which framed much of Amber’s 1980s work.

‘1987 – 1997: Bringing It All Back Home’, takes a slight step back to trace the story of a European engagement, which began with an exchange project between Amber and the East German film company DEFA.
Rookhope, County Durham, 1995, by Jindrich Streit, from the exhibition For Ever Amber at Newcastle's Laing Art Gallery
Jindrich Streir, Rookhope, County Durham, 1995

‘1998 – 2010: Elegies & Renewals’ explores the rebuilding of support for Amber and Side Gallery.

In a separate room, the exhibition focuses on Amber and The History Of Documentary, with over 60 photographs drawn from classic bodies of work collected by Amber, including Newcastle’s own Jimmy Forsyth.
Youth unemployment, Elswick, 1981, by Tish Murtha, from the exhibition For Ever Amber at Newcastle's Laing Art Gallery
Trish Murtha, Youth Unemployment, Elswick, 1981

Forever Amber runs at the Laing Art Gallery, New Bridge Street, Newcastle, June 27 - September 19.


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