Paul Reas: “Day Dreaming About The Good Times?”
A critique of British class and culture in the 1980s and 90s from a photographic pioneer.
Paul Reas is one of the most significant photographers to emerge from the new wave of British colour documentary of the mid-1980s. Spanning thirty years from Thatcherite Britain to today’s recession, and encompassing themes of class, consumption, work and leisure, this is the international premiere of Reas’ first major retrospective.
Paul Reas is part of the pioneering generation of photographers who revealed and critiqued British class and culture in the 1980s and 90s. Strongly influenced by his working class upbringing in Bradford, Reas used humour and sharp observation to comment on a new corporate and commercial world epitomised by heritage industry sites, retail parks, and supermarkets.
I Can Help (1988), Reas’ seminal body of work, explores the consumer boom of the eighties with its American-style out-of-town shopping malls. Depicting employees and shoppers of the new middle class, Reas offers an acerbic revisioning of Britishness to create a powerful portrayal of Thatcherite Britain. Flogging a Dead Horse (1993) presents a nationwide survey of the emergence of the ‘heritage industry’: museums and theme parks such as Beamish Open Air Museum that offered a nostalgic and often commercialised version of the past in the wake of the collapse of heavy manufacturing and industry.
The Valleys Project (1985) depicts the impact of the decline of steel and coal industries in Wales and the emerging workforce of women in ‘New Technology’ industries, undertaking deadening work assembling electro-components in factories. Reas’ most recent work, From a Distance (2012/13) documents today’s property development boom and the changes facing the traditionally working class and culturally diverse neighbourhood of Elephant and Castle in South London.
“Daydreaming About The Good Times?” also features rarely-seen early black and white photographs made in Wales and Bradford; never-before-exhibited work from Flogging a Dead Horse and I Can Help; as well as vintage material from Reas’ personal archive including contact sheets, magazine spreads of editorial work, and examples of his award-winning and subversive advertising campaigns for Nissan, British Telecom and Volkswagen.
Paul Reas (born Bradford, West Yorkshire 1955) has exhibited at numerous international venues and festivals including Photomonth, Krakow; Rencontres d’Arles, France; Foto International, Rotterdam; Jeu de Paume, Paris; and The Photographers’ Gallery, London. His work has featured in many major survey exhibitions of photography, including How We Are: Photographing Britain at Tate Britain, London (2007) and Who’s Looking at the Family at Barbican (1994).
His photographic series I Can Help and Flogging A Dead Horse were both published as monographs by Cornerhouse, and his editorial and commercial work has garnered awards including the Cannes Lion (Gold and Bronze) and D&AD Award (Gold). His work is held in a number of public and private collections and is represented by James Hyman Gallery in London. Reas is currently Course Leader in Documentary Photography at the University of South Wales, Newport.
Our visitors say...
“Very interesting. Captured the times of my life. Pathos, irony. Inspirational.”
“Fascinating documentary, interesting colourful characters, clever observations.”
“A clever and humorous look into the past, a strong sense of naturalism and character caught by a keen eye. Contemporary masterpieces.”
Meet the Artist: Paul Reas
Produced by New Focus, Impressions’ Young People’s Collective
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