In the areas of Manchester and Salford where rows of terraced houses proliferated, the areas where Shirley Baker produced so much of her work, communities were strong. Life was lived in the streets for much of the time, and multi-generational families remained in close proximity. This way of life was beneficial to the elderly, who were more able to find company and friendship and felt part of a community.
As a documenter of people, their lives and relationships, Shirley often photographed elderly people and she noted the way they were integrated into society. With her eye for domestic detail, she captured moments of their lives; showing their dogs at dog shows, meeting for chats on park benches or just sitting by their front doors watching the world go by.
During the summer of 2020 when we were starting to see the easing of lockdown, James Hyman Gallery agreed to host an online exhibition called A Different Age, which focused on the elderly going about their daily lives outdoors. To quote Shirley’s daughter Nan: “Our elderly folk felt very close to my heart. Although many of us were lucky enough to be able to step outside and enjoy the sunshine and play some sport, our elderly relatives were still being advised to stay safe at home, unable to see their loved ones or enjoy simple pleasures such as a trip to the park. It made me realise how important these simple pleasures are in life.”