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Chris Killip/Graham Smith is at Augusta Edwards, London, until 6 November. Chris Killip, Retrospective is at the Photographers Gallery, London, until 19 February

Chris Killip A letter home: The early life of photographer Chris Killip

The later 1960s saw Killip moving towards an intermittent but rewarding freelance career assisting London photographers and working for those arriving in the city for short commissions. An early job was revealing in its fluency: the French photographer Jeanloup Sieff arrived with a small bag containing only a camera, lenses and change of clothes, leaving Killip to buy film just ahead of the shoot. His reputation growing, he agreed terms to assist Justin de Villeneuve, who was responsible for the fashion model Twiggy’s corporate image, as they travelled in a Rolls Royce along the King’s Road. Killip would arrange the studio lighting and process for each shoot, leaving de Villeneuve to do little more than press the shutter. Their aim was to have cover shoots for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Queen magazines within six months, a goal they subsequently achieved.The following year Arbeit/Work was published to coincide with a major retrospective of his work at Museum Folkwang, Essen. It was an honour not granted to him in his lifetime in Britain. The week before his death, he was awarded the Dr Erich Salomon lifetime achievement award for his services to the medium. Chris Killip: My camera’s very visible. It’s big. And there’s something good about this, where you have to deal with the fact that I am a photographer and I am here. Look at this great big contraption.

CHRIS KILLIP Books and publications — CHRIS KILLIP

The Photographers’ Gallery in London is staging a retrospective of his work overseen by photographer Ken Grant and curator Tracy Marshall-Grant, which they hope will bring more context to the man behind the images. It is the first exhibition on Killip since he died from cancer in 2020. Killip had spoken about the idea of a retrospective, but it was “only when he started to become ill that the conversations really accelerated”, Grant says. I am the photographer of the de-industrial revolution in England. I didn’t set out to be this. It’s what happened during the time I was photographing.” —Chris KillipThat, too, resonates in the work, in the two differing approaches to the same end: the recording of ordinary, working-class lives at the mercy of economic and ideological forces that devalued them. Smith describes the Amber collective as “a group of idealists guided by a philosophy to create a dialogue with working-class communities, to value and document their culture, to live cheaply and be in control of our own labour.” That idealism also seems to belong to another time, another country, but it underpinned two bodies of work that have grown in importance as time has passed. Killip could have been speaking for both of them when he said of his subjects, “In recording their lives, I’m valuing their lives.” Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

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