It’s Grim up North


England in the eighties was grim. I know. I grow up there. When I think of it now certain images come to mind, none of them pretty. The interior of social security offices with their low ceilings, stained carpets and dispiriting queues. The exterior of abandoned factories grass growing through concrete floors, once alive with machinery long since auctioned off. The hallowed faces of middle-aged men with thinning quiffs of greased back hair that simultaneously harkened back to a more prosperous time, while letting you know that time was long gone.

Paul Graham’s eighties images of dole offices, housing estates and transport cafe’s bring to life a time I’d rather forget in a way that seems to my memory, so thoroughly accurate that for a moment I am almost back there sipping strong hot tea in a Little Chef or staring out over a roundabout as lorries and Ford Escort’s whirl round in a circle.


Like William Eggleston, he shows how the inanimate and supposedly mundane can seem suddenly human and vital.

These are the kind of views of things and people we wish to shut out but which make up a vast part of our visual lives.

Who really wants to remember the view from a bridge onto a motorway in Yorkshire or for that matter, the back of a woman’s headscarf?

Yet when confronted with these banal pictures we see for the first time that they speak to us more than the shots that try and cut out the ugliness of our lives.










2 thoughts

  1. I am a softie Southerner (of the English kind), and these photographs cause my breathing to become shallow. Memories of confused nights in Ramsbottom, scared of the local women (they were not girls) and doing as I was told. Little Chefs indeed.

    • Yes. northern women are……. forceful. I have to say I come from the south myself and moved there when i was ten.It was a bit of a culture shock or more accurately lack-of-culture shock. But I grew to love it and those images take me back

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