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November 2, 2021

Vintage Photos Captured Britain’s Vanished Industrial Heartlands

Everyday life in Wallsend and South Shields was provided with a backdrop of huge ships and industrial cranes, which immensely fascinated Chris Killip. The ship Tyne Pride, which he photographed in 1975, was the biggest ship ever built on the river, but also one of the last. “Even then I had a sense that all this was not going to last,” he says, “though I had no idea how soon it would all be gone.”

In an early photograph, Tyne Pride looms over children playing in the street. Only two years later, another photograph shows the same street demolished, dramatic evidence of the industry’s decline. Other photographs capture the energy of the mid-1970s, with ships under construction and shipyard workers streaming out of the gates at the end of shift.

Killip’s photographs document the lives of working people and their resilience of spirit while at the same time recording the steady decline of industrial Britain. Initially coming to the North East in 1975 as the Northern Arts Photography Fellow, Chris Killip lived and worked on Tyneside until 1991 when he was recruited by Harvard University to teach photography in its Visual Studies Program. In honour of the shipyard workers of Tyneside, he gave this set of exhibition prints to the Laing.

Wallsend Housing Looking East, 1975

Wallsend, 1970s

Shipyard workers looking at the Everett F Wells, Wallsend, 1977

Tyne Pride from a back lane, Wallsend, 1975

Tyne Pride at the end of the street, Wallsend, 1970s

Demolished housing, Wallsend, August 1977

End of shift

“The working class get it in the neck basically, they’re the bottom of the pile,” said Killip. “I wanted to record people’s lives because I valued them. I wanted them to be remembered. If you take a photograph of someone they are immortalised, they’re there forever. For me that was important, that you’re acknowledging people’s lives, and also contextualising people’s lives.” For more of Killip’s work, check out his book “In Flagrante”.

A car dumped on the beach has to be outmanoeuvred by the Seacoalers, Lynemouth, Northumberland, UK, 1982

North Shields, Tyneside, May 1981

Crabs and people, Skinningrove, North Yorkshire, 1981

True love wall, Gateshead, Tyneside, 1975

Father and son watching a parade, West End, Newcastle, UK, 1980

(via Flashbak)


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