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Impressions Gallery

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Impressions on tour: Hidden by Red Saunders at People's History Museum, Manchester

Fri, 8th Feb, 2013

One of Impressions' most popular exhibitions in recent years is on view at the People's History Museum in Manchester from 9 March to 29 September 2013.

Red Saunders’ epic photographic tableaux vivants (‘living pictures’) recreate momentous but overlooked events from Britain’s struggle for democracy and equality, from the Peasants Revolt of 1381 to the Chartist movement of the mid nineteenth century.

Focussing on the contributions of ordinary men and women, rather than the monarchs and ‘Great Men’ that dominate official history, Saunders seeks to shed light on the parallel, ‘hidden history’ of revolutionaries and radicals. Meticulously detailed, atmospherically lit, and historically accurate, each scene is recreated and posed by models, providing photographic ‘evidence’ for events that occurred before the widespread adoption of camera technology.

The impressively large-scale works feature amongst others William Cuffay, a black worker and son of a slave, signing the great ‘People’s Charter’ of 1842; Mary Wollstonecraft, the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women and precursor of modern feminism; and triumphant rebel leader Wat Tyler after his peasant army seized London in 1381.

The exhibition also features recently commissioned work including Leveller Women in the English Revolution, 1647 which focuses on women’s activism during the English Civil War (1642 - 1651). The photograph recreates a dusk campsite scene where female radicals address a large crowd of soldiers, Levellers and dissenters.  A further image, inspired by the nationwide agricultural Swing Riots of 1830, is a dramatic night scene where hooded farmworkers emerge from rushes to act against repressive landlord farmers.

Saunders says ‘my hope is that these images can give new life to these important episodes of working people’s history’.

Red Saunders 
is a professional photographer who combines his photographic practice with cultural, artistic, musical, and political activism. A former member of the 60's underground theatre group CAST, he made his name with nearly two decades of work for the ground breaking Sunday Times colour supplement, until he ended his association following the Wapping dispute of 1986-7. He was a founder member and activist with the Rock Against Racism campaign from 1976 onwards. An arson attack destroyed his studio and life work in 1994 and he did not return to photography until the end of the decade, turning instead film-making. In recent years he has focussed on personal work, the Hidden project.

Hidden was originally shown as part of Ways of Looking, a new photography festival in Bradford, and features three works set in the North of England, specially commissioned by Impressions Gallery and The Culture Company.

For more information on Hidden, and to watch a video of Red Saunders talking about his work, click here.

To visit the People's History Museum website,
click here.

The Swing Riots, 1830

The Swing Riots, 1830