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Welcome to
Four Corners Archive

 

Four Corners Archive explores and documents the film and photographic heritage of Four Corners, Half Moon Photography Workshop, and Camerawork Magazine, from 1972-1987.

Four Corners and Half Moon Photography Workshop (later Camerawork) were two innovative cultural organisations, based in East London. Their early work played a major role in the development of the radical film and photographic practice characteristic of the 1970s and early 1980s.

The project brings these unique archival resources into the public realm, making this important contribution to British cultural history widely accessible for the first time.

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Four Corners Archive is made possible through the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.

 

 

Articles

The politics of the Half Moon Photography Workshop

Half Moon/Camerawork
Mathilde Bertrand, 2018


In May 1975, Jo Spence and Terry Dennett formed Photography Workshop in Islington, ‘an independent educational, research, publishing and resource project’ designed to examine historical and contemporary uses of photography. Spence and Dennett were critical of contemporary photographic practices, particularly the professionalization of the sector and its growth within a competitive market. To them, these developments undermined alternative conceptions of the medium, with historical roots in the Labour movement of the 1930s.

The workshop grew out of our dissatisfaction with current trends in British photography and our desire to contribute, as photographers, to social change. – Photography Workshop, 1975

For them, the ‘amateur’, or non-professional photographer could act as an agent of democratic change. They saw a need to “demystify” photography, to break its association with an expert and exclusive form of knowledge, to resist its absorption in fine arts spheres, and to preserve it as a technology accessible to all.

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Latest


Discovering East London History

I had the opportunity to work on the Four Corners Archive, a project which began in 2016 and just recently coming towards the end. The work implied listening to oral history recordings and editing them to excerpts that one can find on the website,Working on the Four Corners archive is an experience of learning history, discovering personal stories and getting inspiration on photography and film. Although all the interviews provide an invaluable insight into East London during the 70s and 80s, I found two stories particularly inspiring for young people: Wendy Ewald’s journey to open up Half Moon Gallery and Lisa Warren’s experience with Youth Workshop at Four Corners.

Wendy Ewald’s story begins at the age of 19, when she came to London for a placement at Birkbeck College. Her then-husband found an ad for help to rebuild the Half Moon theater and Wendy used the foyer to start a gallery in 1972. The ease of her opening up a photography gallery without having a lot of experience is both inspiring and frightening at the same time, making one wonder if this would still be possible in the current art scene in London. Wendy put up several photography exhibition - with Wendy McNeal and Eugene Richards amongst others - throughout her 9 month running the gallery, before going back to the USA. The gallery continued to run even after she left, forming the basis of what was to become one of the few galleries that exhibited photography at the time, with only Photographer’s Gallery exhibiting similar work.

Listening to Lisa Warren’s interview, gave me an insight into Four Corners’ Youth Workshops, which were held in the 80s. The impact that the workshops had on the participants is eye opening, with Lisa talking about the gallery as a ‘safe space’ where they were first taken seriously as creatives. This was the beginning of empowering young people in their journey as artists and Four Corners provided unique opportunities for the local community to learn skills in filmmaking. Some of the participants continued their journey in film and Lisa pursued a career in theater, a direct influence of the workshops held at the gallery. This demonstrates how important the workshop were for shaping the future of anyone who participated and points to the work Four Corners continues today, with free workshops and programmes that help the development of filmmakers and photographers.

The archive is full of exciting material, from images of how Four Corners looked in the 80s, documentary photographs of Broadwater Farm, audio files of interviews with Wendy Ewalds, Lil Warren, Ron Peck,Val Wilmer to excerpts from films like ‘A Kind of English’ by Ruhul Amin and ‘Bred and Born’ by Joanna Davis and Mary Pat Leece.

Written by Liliana Zaharia

 

This project is dedicated to the fond memory of Ed Barber (1949-2017), an important early member of the Half Moon Photography Workshop and Camerawork magazine, whose energy and enthusiasm helped create this project.