There’s just three days left to see Burberry’s nostalgic and, given world events, poignantly relevant photographic exhibition of British life.
Curated by the label’s chief creative officer Christopher Bailey and Lucy Kumara Moore, owner of cult bookshop Claire de Rouen, Here We Are is a document of British identity – at a time when the country seemed irreparably divided.
Divided by theme, the work of over 30 photographers capturing different aspects of British life from 1935 and beyond spans three floors of Clerkenwell’s distressed Grade II-listed Old Sessions House.
Peeling walls and exposed wooden frames make perfect backdrops to images from key social and documentary image makers including Shirley Baker, Ken Russell, and Alasdair McLellan.
“When we started thinking about curating Here We Are, I knew I wanted it to celebrate a certain strand of British photography that I have always loved – one which documents the many and varied tribes and clans and classes that make up this island of ours,” says Bailey.
“The exhibition has many layers,” says Moore. “On first glance, there are ways of behaving that we recognise instantly. Then, there the different subcultures and tribes and clans …”
Her favourite portraits remain the ones that capture a ““liberated spirit, that confidence to express themselves.” There’s no better example than Ken Russell’s portrait of 14-year-old Teddy Girl Jean Rayner.
“Defying austerity with her glamour and sartorial sophistication,” says Moore, affectionately.
In a country split by differences over issues like Brexit, Here We Are offers a multi-dimensional view of British identity. We are all of the moments on its walls – and more.
“I hope so,’ says Moore, fervently. “I don’t want [the exhibition] to have one answer to the question of who are we.
“Questions of identity are usually informed by looking at the past,” she continues. “It’s useful to look back and to think about how we’ve defined ourselves since the war – and [then to understand that] we’ve come to the end of that era …”
“It has been an extraordinary privilege to gather together this collection of photographs, that have influenced me so much over the years,” adds Bailey.
“They provide a portrait of British life, in all its nuances, both exceptional and mundane, beautiful and harsh. It’s the spirit of those photographs – sometimes ironic, sometimes tender, always truthful – that has guided our September collection. Together, they celebrate a very British way of life and way of dressing.”