Socialist Worker

Strange and Familiar—taking aim at class society in Britain

Issue No. 2496

Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers

Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers (Pic: © Tristan Fewings/Getty Images (downloaded from Barbican press site))

This exhibition takes a stand against our rulers’ attempts to make even the starkest poverty and most obscene degradation seem “natural”.

It brings together some of the 20th century’s best international photographers.

As outsiders unacclimatised to British society, many of their scenes are loaded with indignation at the way workers and their families are treated.

Communist Edith Tudor-Hart’s pictures of a hungry child peering into an East End bakery’s window in 1935 is heart wrenching.

But her next shot of a group of Chinese children outside the same bakery shows she isn’t trying to pluck heartstrings.

The harsh glares she receives let you know that they’re not victims, but subjects in their own right.

The exhibition’s first floor continues in this vein, downstairs things start to go a bit wrong.

In particular, Bruce Gilden’s large portraits of working class faces from the Black Country are mocking and designed to provoke revulsion.

Not everyone succumbs. Akihiko Okamura depicts both the horror and mundanity of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

The way in which the exhibition tails off is disappointing, but it’s more than a problem of curation.

The socially committed photographers were ground-breaking. But that’s because they saw their work as part of changing society.

Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers
Barbican Centre, London EC2Y 8DS.
Until 16 June.


Luce is a play about the paranoia of “homegrown terrorism” in the West.

Teenager Luce (Martins Imhangbe) has fled the war-torn Congo in Africa and been adopted in the US.

But when he writes an essay about a 1970s nationalist leader, his teacher Harriet suspects Luce is planning a terror attack.

The play raises important questions around terrorism, racism and education at a time when Britain’s Prevent strategy targets Muslim children as terror suspets.

Directed by Simon Dormandy
Southwark Playhouse,
London SE1 6BD.
Until 2 April.
Tickets £20 and
concessions £16


Director ben Wheatley’s latest film is based on science fiction writer JG Ballard’s High-Rise.

Ballard used science fiction to take apart the false consolations of modern capitalism.

Here the young doctor Robert Laing becomes enthralled with an isolated community living in a luxury high rise.

The film brilliantly shows Ballard’s dystopian vision of a decaying 1970s Britain.

Directed by Ben Wheatley.
Out now in cinemas.

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Tue 22 Mar 2016, 17:14 GMT
Issue No. 2496
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