Early 80s punk ladies are rediscovered in this exciting exhibition
During 1981, the ‘soft punk’ photographer Anita Corbin exhibited Visible Girls – a photography exhibition featuring women from Rasta, skins, mods, rockabillies, punk and futurist subcultures in London plus women involved in the women’s liberation movement.
36 years later, the exhibition is revisited, showcasing those female punks and identity groups in a new light.
As well as exhibiting the original images from ’81, Anita has managed to go that extra mile by tracking down the original women, re-photograph them and display them alongside the originals.
The show highlights how each woman has transformed over the years, with some appearing to have lost much of their punk attitude, whilst others still flaunt similar suits and ties they rocked back in the ’80s.
For Anita, punk wasn’t just for the boys, it was as important to the girls. For anyone who was part of a subculture at this time, it was a lifestyle that truly took over their lives.
Many of the images feature a mixture of women who were either close pals, sisters or couples but all share a similar love for their respective scenes. It’s an interesting look at the adolescent self and reveals just how much identity really shapes how we perceive ourselves and each other.
Altogether, the 28 double portraits show the ladies hanging out in various locations including friends’ homes, social centres and pubs and clubs where they often chatted politics, fashion and music. At the time, the images were groundbreaking, but revisited, they now reveal a sense of nostalgia and recollection of an era that was once such a vital time in the subjects’ lives.
For Anita, being a young female photographer in London was an intensely visual environment. “Punk had broken all the rules in the late 70s, torn down all the conventions and we made the most of it” says Anita. “We flexed every creative muscle in our young bodies”. After reconnecting with the girls 35 year later, Anita was instantly overwhelmed with how little they had changed. “They were still speaking up for what they believed in and are still expressing themselves” says Anita. “Just not as extreme”.
There was an energy on the street, no computers, no internet, no mobile phones, and in many cases, no home phones. Young people had to meet in the flesh, life was more about being there, feeling it and being seen. We were more body driven.
To accompany the exhibition, exclusive tape recordings of interviews will also be featured from 1981 alongside recent interviews with the girls 36 years on. Many of these subjects live all over the world, including Australia, Slovenia and the US, working in professions which range from psychic coaches to interior designers.
One of the subjects, Carol Holmes, who now works in Hull as a social worker, was originally approached by Anita whilst attending a political conference with her partner of the time, Nicola, during the 80s. “Anita told me she liked what we were wearing and asked for a photo. I didn’t think anything of it”.
It’s scary to the look at how much we’ve changed. When I was younger, I felt more free. The older you get, you tend to get tied down. None of that mattered when you were younger.
Carol Holmes, Visible Girl
What made the experience different this time round for Carol, was the nature of the shoot. “This time the pictures were more organised. Before they were taken there and then, everything was more planned the second time.
According to Carol, there was also a much bigger passion for politics. “People were more passionate politically back then” says Carol. “There was more to fight for, although recently, Jeremy Corbyn has got me back in to politics. He gives me something to believe in”.
Carol and her wife Ann at home in Hessle, Hull January 2017
Carol was also the visible girl who suggested Artlink as a potential space for the exhibition. ‘It seemed like the right time to bring it to Hull, especially with the City of Culture year. I’m really proud of the city as a 2017 volunteer.”
The exhibition is a must-see for anyone and everyone wanting to capture a glimpse into 80s subculture, but also highlights, that an identity can never really define who you are.
Anita Corbin’s Visible Girls: Revisited runs from 7 July – 11 August at Artlink, 87 Princes Avenue, Hull, HU5 3QP.
Alongside her exhibition, “Visible Girls Revisited”, photographer Anita Corbin will be running a workshop for girls aged 12-16 years to look at photography within the context of personal identity and everyday life. To book and for more information, email artlink at firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 01482 345104.