Before and after photos of women in the 80s and 36 years later to go on display at The Civic, Barnsl

A photographic exhibition by Anita Corbin is reuniting women with their adolescent selves. This collection of images to be displayed at The Civic, Barnsley reveal how we feel about, and reflect upon, our identity and society at the various stages in our lives. The exhibition will consist of images taken in the 1980s of pairs of teenage girls identifying with various subcultures (Punk, Mod, Rasta, etc). These pictures are exhibited with new images of the same women 35 years on. The exhibition provokes discussion on ‘social tribes’, the power of belonging and belief, the imagery of cultural allegiance, gender and identity. 

How have the stories of these women panned out? Did that scowling party girl now have three teenage kids? Is the skinhead now a 55-year-old office worker leading a simple life? Is that punk now a yoga teacher? As a 22-year old photographer in the early 1980s, Anita Corbin was driven to ensure that a generation of young women were represented in a photographic genre that was almost entirely dominated by men. 

Corbin wanted to capture the spirit of these women and the significance of their unity in a portrait series depicting pairs of friends, sisters and lovers in subcultures. She photographed mods, punks, skinheads, rastas, young lesbians, rockers – young women everywhere who were defying the mainstream, flying the flag of their individuality in clearly defined tribes characterised by music, fashion, geography and sexual orientation. The images toured the country to great acclaim in the 1980s and beyond, making a notable re-appearance on the social website in the summer of 2014 when Corbin herself had reached her mid-fifties. Corbin found herself wondering what had happened those girls – who would also now be in their fifties – and their dreams, hopes and aspirations. 

All of a sudden after a 33-year hiatus, the women started reappearing and contacting Anita, reclaiming their Visible Girls status’. 

As a result, Visible Girls Revisited was a born, a growing collection of double portraits of the same girls – now women – 36 years later. This compelling photographic exhibition comprises both the ‘then’ and ‘now’ portraits. These images return with a story – the story of the lives of British women, their hopes, their experiences and their relationships. The path of every one of them a means for us all to consider our own identity and what it means to be a woman in the 21st century. The exhibition will travel throughout the UK including a stop in Barnsley for July and August. 

Speaking about the exhibition, the artist Anita Corbin said “When I took the original double portraits I was determined that as young women we should claim our place in photographic history. Colour photography was the perfect medium as the girls were so colourful, vibrant and individual. As a non-conformist myself, my search for identity and belonging at 22 was perfectly expressed in the combination of these girls looking for their own sense of self and my desire to photograph them.

Visible Girls: Revisited offered those girls – and again, myself – a chance to come full circle; to celebrate and understand that who we were isn’t lost, but necessarily informs who we have become. The audience isn’t an outsider to this process either, but through relationship to the images, can, I hope come into deeper relationship with their own lives.”

Visible Girls: Revisited, The lives, tribes and spirit of British Women A photographic exhibition by Anita Corbin is at The Civic on 13 July – 31 August. Opening 10:00am – 5:00pm | Tue – Sat | Free admission For further booking information visit contact The Civic Box Office on 01226 327 000

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