Side Gallery Reopens After Major Redevelopment With Childhoods Photography Exhibition

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Childhoods brings together new work and work from Amber’s collection, creating a complex portrait of children’s lives and the social contexts they deal with.
The exhibition will move between North East England and the wider world, and will move across the four decades of Side Gallery’s existence.
“As well as exploring its themes, the exhibition is looking at where we are going over the next ten years,” says Kerry Lowes, the gallery team member who has curated the show, “it opens up on the connections we are making, new ways of working with communities and audiences, new ways of showing work at Side.”

Tanya and her Grandfather, 1982. from the series Step By Step © Sirkka Liisa Konttinen
Childhoods includes some of the great exhibitions held in the collection: Tish Murtha’s Juvenile Jazz Bands (1979), Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen’s Step by Step (1984), Dean Chapman’s Shifting Ground (2001) and Karen Robinson’s All Dressed Up (2005).
It will include Julian Germain’s Classroom Portraits, developed across the world between 2004 and 2012, and James Mollison’s Where Children Sleep (2010), series told through portraits of children in their bedrooms – a way of revealing the complex situations and social issues affecting them.

The gallery closed in 2015 with Kai Wiedenhöfer’s Confrontier. For the new exhibition, Wiedenhöfer is contributing a series of portraits of refugee children from his new work, Forty Out of One Million / Syrian Collateral, which he has just shown pasted on to the Berlin Wall.
Philip and JAmie are creatures from outer space in their space ship. Denise Dixon.
Philip and Jamie are creatures from outer space in their space ship © Denise Dixon
The exhibition will also include Wendy Ewald’s Portraits and Dreams, a participative project from the 1970s developed with the children she was teaching in a small coalfield community in the Appalachians, USA.
The exhibition also includes Liz Hingley’s previously unseen Home Made in Smethwick (2016). These intimate portraits of family meals and home cooked foods on offer in the ethnically diverse streets of Smethwick are accompanied by personal recipes, highlighting meal time’s importance in family bonding and defining children’s long-term relationship with food.
Commissioned by Multistory as part of their ‘Black Country Stories’ programme, Hingley’s series also gives an insight into peoples journeys to Smethwick, revealing another perspective on the migration experience.
from the exhibition Juvenile Jazz Bands, commissioned by Side Gallery and first exhibited in 1979
Image from the exhibition Juvenile Jazz Bands, commissioned by Side Gallery and first exhibited in 1979, Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha
Amber film & photography collective has been documenting working class and marginalised lives and landscapes in North East England since 1968. It opened Side Gallery in 1977, and, in 1978, Henri Cartier-Bresson celebrated his 70th with a retrospective at Side.
Documentary has gone in and out of fashion and in again. The money has gone up and down. Side has kept going and the AmberSide Collection, which grows out of the group’s production, commissioning and collecting now holds some 20,000 photographs and 100 films.
More information is available here.

Tom Seymour

Tom Seymour is an Associate Editor at The Art Newspaper and an Associate Lecturer at London College of Communication. His words have been published in The Guardian, The Observer, The New York Times, Financial Times, Wallpaper* and The Telegraph. He has won Writer of the Year and Specialist Writer of the year on three separate occassions at the PPA Awards for his work with The Royal Photographic Society.