By hosting Visible Girls Revisited by Anita Corbin, Hull becomes the next chapter in a story that began in 1981. With camera in hand a young non-conformist Anita began capturing on film the spectacular diversity within the many groups and tribes of women, who existed outside of the mainstream.
Over the space of a year Anita frequented London nightspots and private homes and had, what she describes as ‘brief encounters’ lasting no more than five minutes each, as she persuaded pairs of women to be in a picture.
In that way she began creating a valuable and unique photographic record, which reflected the tribes, subcultures and independent spirit of the girls at the time. The images celebrate Skins in jeans and braces, and New Romantics in frills and laces, Punks with spiky hair and eye-catching make-up there are Rockabillies and Rude Girls and Goths… prompting the question, where are all those definitive looks, where are the different tribes today? (Perhaps swallowed by the great leveller, the internet: young people are encouraged to be individual whilst being force-fed a homogenised diet of Instagram, Facebook and Amazon.
35 years later Anita had a ‘Where are they now?’ moment and so Visible Girls Revisited was created in order to uncover what had happened to the women in the original images. Revisited gives the audience and participants an opportunity to answer questions surrounding the changing nature of allegiances, the potency and promise of being young, whether formative ideals once so strongly held, can remain a part of your make-up.
Anita embarked on a mammoth task to locate all the Visible Girls with a view to photograph them as they are today. By using the reach of the web, with the support of her dedicated team she has so far managed to locate 70% of the women leaving twenty or thirty women still not visible.
By taking Visible Girls Revisited around the country, Anita hopes to be able to find the remaining girls and share something of their stories.
Visible Girls Revisited arrives here in Hull as part of Square Peg, Artlink’s user-led diversity and disability arts programme supported by Hull 2017 and partners. The Artlink exhibition contains brand new images of some of the ‘found’ visible girls as they are today, the presence of both images in the same space, was described as being ‘so arresting’ by Martin Green CEO Hull UK City of Culture.
“For the first time ever all of the images are on the wall together.” Anita Corbin
There are a number of period telephones instantly recognisable, that play transcribed interviews with the Visible Girls, when you lift the receiver from the cradle. The presentation is fun and through the listening you gain a greater understanding of the stories behind the images.
In the portrait of friends Charlotte and Tessa the original ’81 picture is sitting between the women, as they pose – despite living on opposite sides of the globe – propping up the very same piano, decades later. Anita has made a conscious effort to recreate the original portraits, by copying poses and locations where possible.
As each Visible Girl is found their stories are revealed: Di, the Croydon punk is now a yoga teacher; Gill, describes the Skins scene as providing her a sense of escape, now with two daughters, she believes women today have new freedoms and can express themselves – be visible – in many different ways.
Carol from Hull (seen on the left of Visible Girls Revisited poster below) is pictured sporting a school tie and cropped hair after attending the first National Lesbian Conference in the capital. Carol would go on to be very active in her community, helping set up the first women’s centre and Rape Crisis helpline.
She explained the complex and mixed reaction she had that coming face to face with her adolescent self had had on her, not least because she is no longer with Nicola the other girl in the picture. Carol is sporting a similar do tonight albeit with a flash of pink, ‘My politics haven’t changed, I feel just as strongly as I ever did, I just do things on a quieter scale now – I live in a bungalow in Hessle,’ she says with a hint of incredulity in her tone.
Also present at the Hull preview was ‘Squasher‘ better known as Sue, whose story reinforces the power that a single image can hold, and how we self-identify at a young age, can shape and inform, who we later become.
Stood in a bathroom in black leather jackets and miniskirts the pair look incredibly powerful, a high voltage sign fashioned into a belt, which Sue found in a substation, reads 417 Volts, ‘We were hot stuff,’ she laughs.
In addition to the exhibition which runs until 12 August, Anita Corbin will be holding a public talk about Visible Girls Revisited on July 14, plus there are a number of in-house and on-street workshops to capture the visible girls here in Hull.
See Artlink Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ArtlinkHull/
Artlink post on Social media twelve hours after launch event: We are so excited that as a result of just ONE NIGHT of our exhibition “Visible Girls Revisited” a lost visible girl [Jill, The Blitz Covent Garden] has been found!
Visible Girls Revisited at Artlink is marked by the release of a highly-desirable, colour, First Edition Catalogue – that contains the images from the exhibition and the stories of the ‘found’ Visible Girls – plus you will find other Visible Girls merchandise, including tees and prints, available to purchase inside the gallery. For more information about Visible Girls Revisited go to: http://visiblegirls.com/
Visible Girls Revisited at Artlink Hull is open to the public 10am – 4pm until Aug 12
For more from Square Peg photographer see @Photomoments
For more blog posts by Michelle Dee, click here.