Over my 35-year career as a photographer, I have walked through Metro Imaging’s doors hundreds of times. But tonight was special. Tonight, those doors were emblazoned with the striking images of ‘Lynne and Penny’, two of my Visible Girls photographs on public show tonight for the first time in 35 years.
An hour or so later would see the arrival of a BBC TV crew (headed by David Sillito), two documentary filmmakers, a host of over 100 excited visitors and – most importantly – a contingent of the original Visible Girls and their families.
Excited and a little nervous, the photography project of my early twenties was getting the best rebirth it could hope for. Metro had not only treated the images themselves with respect, skill and enthusiasm, but our working history made tonight feel like a homecoming.
Metro’s offer to exhibit the original portraits was the ideal kick-off to a season in which the Visible Girls will be touring ‘Punk London’ hotspots, including The Photographers’ Gallery in July, a pop-up show in Soho in the summer and a Punk London memorabilia show in Shoreditch in September.
Collaboration has been a keyword for the re-entry of Visible Girls into the public sphere after 35 years. Collaboration – not just with Metro and the media – but with the girls themselves.
On this spectacular evening over glasses of wine and Somerset cider, the original girls gathered. Punks met mods met rockabillies – some for the first time, others old friends who had stayed in touch. Others, young women who had simply said ‘yes’ to having their picture taken by me nearly four decades ago and hadn’t seen each other since.
The energy, enthusiasm and excitement in the gallery was tangible and infectious and I was thrilled that all of the girls seemed to have as much of a zest for life as ever they did.
It is my intention to weave that energy into the Visible Girls:Revisited project next year; that the women in those 1980 shots will have active input into how the re-shoot unfolds.
One of the best bits was seeing the children of the Visible Girls. Young women and men chatting with each other, comparing how cool their mums were back then, many of them the age their mothers were back when I took the original portraits!
Another unexpected thrill – six new Visible Girls as yet undiscovered were brought to light as a result of the coverage generated by the private view!
Despite Visible Girls being my body of work, what is beginning to really land for me is the sense that this project belongs to a whole generation of women: a celebration of their power, potency and independence.
A photographer always wants their work to be more than wallpaper, and my dreams for Visible Girls in this respect seemed more than realised at the Metro show. There is certainly a solid, palpable social, historical and anthropological resonance that seems to be becoming a reality. The early 1980s was a very unusual time and the energy that permeates the images feels very present today. The Revisited project seeks to embody, celebrate and explore that energy – in it’s evolved form – inevitably reshaped and honed by the ensuing 35 years, just as the girls themselves have been.
I was proud of my 21-year old self that took those pictures. Proud of her vision, rebirthed that evening in glorious technicolour. I’m proud I chose to work in colour when so much of that era was tending to black and white. The vibrancy still in tact (thanks to Metro!) but not nearly so vibrant as the girls themselves. Still strong, independent creative women – with whom I am so excited to be collaborating on the Revisited project. Watch this space!
Watch the BBC coverage here:
For the Punk London schedule, click here: http://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/punk-weekender-2
The Metro Imaging show runs until May 27th.
For more details click here: http://www.metroimaging.co.uk/metro-imaging-foh-exhibitions-visible-girls