Red Saunders: Hidden
Epic photographs reimagining decisive but overlooked events in Britain's struggle for democracy and social justice
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. Shown as part of Ways of Looking photography festival in Bradford, this first major solo exhibition of Saunders’ work features the world premiere of two dramatic new works, specially commissioned by Impressions Gallery and The Culture Company.
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, some six metres long, 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.
Unveiled for the first time in the exhibition, the first newly commissioned work focuses on women’s activism during the English Civil War (1642 – 1651), recreating a dusk campsite scene where female radicals address a large crowd of soldiers, Levellers and dissenters. The second, 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.
Curated by Pippa Oldﬁeld and Nicola Stephenson. Funded by National Lottery through Arts Council England, as part of Ways of Looking Festival of Photography. With thanks to Star Events Group, Phase One, Direct Lighting, Smart Van, Whitestone Arts, ImageCo, and all the many supporters who made this happen.
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.
Our visitors say...
“I cannot possibly imagine the creativity and will needed to complete such a vast project, amazing work.”
“A most enjoyable look at some overlooked people throughout history. A nice alternative to the usual stories of historical events.”
“An amazing pictorial portrayal of heroes and heroines of our past, that most undoubtedly shaped our future!”
Runtime 3 minutes
Produced by Impressions Gallery and National Media Museum for Ways of Looking Festival
Hidden Schools Tour
In an innovative project, Impressions Gallery toured the exhibition Hidden by Red Saunders to primary and secondary schools across the Bradford district, showing artworks in assembly halls, classrooms, and corridors. Taking inspiration from the themes of Saunders’ work, students investigated the history of everyday people’s struggles for democracy and equality in the UK.
The major exhibition Who Do We Think We Are was the result of the young people’s participation in the tour. Featuring photographic tableaux re-imagining the past, and playful contemporary portraits, the students’ work explores history and social identity.Find out more
The Bigger Picture: The Work of Impressions Gallery
Ways of Looking/ Evidence
Public, Private, Secret: On Photography and the Configuration of Self By Charlotte Cotton£19.95
Afterwards: Contemporary Photography Confronting the Past by Nathalie Herschdorfer
Pippa Oldfield, Head of Programme
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