An informative talk about the legacy of Shirley Baker took place at Tate Modern, London as part of the launch of a new book entitled Shirley Baker by Lou Stoppard, writer and editor. Stoppard led the panel, consisting of Dr Sabina Jaskot-Gill, Senior Curator Photography at the National Portrait Gallery and John van Aitken, photographer and Principal Lecturer in Media at University of Central Lancashire.
Lou Stoppard’s new book features some of the lesser-known work by Shirley. The artist may be primarily known for her street photography but there is much more to her body of work; her subjects included dogs, children, Japan and France, and an increasing interest in youth culture, particularly in London after she moved to Camden. Shirley remained interested in the street, and the areas bohemian feel and the prevalence of punks at that time, provided captivating subject matter.
While working on her book, Stoppard spent many days with Shirley’s daughter, painstakingly sifting through the huge archive of work. A wealth of surprising images were discovered over their time together, plus boxes full of essays and notes – Shirley was known for keeping everything and she rarely disposed of anything. Stoppard wanted to show just how diverse Shirley’s work was.
John van Aitken worked closely with Shirley and was able to give the audience a sense of her feelings about her own work and how she wanted to record those communities and the way they lived. He referred to the ‘urban nostalgia’ of slum living and how responses to the work have changed over the decades. Sabina Jaskot-Gill discussed Shirley’s eye for composition, and elaborated on her skill in capturing interaction between the subjects of her work.
The Tate Modern talk was very well attended, and was followed by a lively and extremely informative Q&A session.
Photos by Olivia Rosen