Reconnecting women through their past identities

Published: Thursday 13th July 2017 by Rich Sutherland

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Visible Girls: Revisited explores identity and cultural allegiance through a series of original 1980s portraits and newly commissioned images.

When Anita Corbin first trailed the 80s club scene with her camera at age 22, taking snaps of young women, she never imagined that she would be revisiting her work 36 years later.

In 1981, Anita spent nine months capturing double portraits of young girls from different cultural groups. She was intrigued by the ways in which they express themselves and their identity through fashion and music.

Over three decades later, she launched a campaign on social media to reconnect with the women in her original photographs.

“The early eighties were a pivotal time in young women’s lives,” explains Anita. “The Sex Discrimination Act had been passed around five years before and we were benefitting from the law being on our side.”

The Act was a huge step towards equality between the sexes and reduced discrimination on the grounds of sex in education, training and employment.

“I wanted to create a series that put young women on the map,” she tells us. “My mission statement at the time was ‘Here we are, this is what we look like, we’re amazing and we can be whoever we want to be’.”

The 28 original photographs feature women from all sorts of iconic subcultures, including skins, mods, rockabillies, rastas, new romantics and punks, as well as images of young lesbians.

“I wanted the images to be in full colour and for the hues to be as accurate as possible,” Anita recalls. “These women had strong visual identities in terms of makeup, hair and fashion and I wanted to capture that. There’s a very vibrant 80s palette.”

Anita remembers it being a little tricky to take such high colour images in the often dimly-lit nightclubs and bars:

“I didn’t make it easy for myself. I had to carry around this awkward, heavy portable flash, as well as a couple of camera bodies.”

The talented lenswoman only used two rolls of films per night, due to her tight student budget:

“I would take around five to ten shots of one scene. There was no checking the images either, as this was a time before Polaroids and digital.”

Because of the nature of the work, Anita had lost touch with the women in the photographs until now. An incredible 70% of the female subjects have been found, simply through social media shares and word of mouth.

“I’ve travelled all over to take the new set of portraits. It’s fabulous that many of these women are now living in places like Australia, America, France, Spain and Slovenia,” she enthuses.

“What has been really powerful is seeing the connections between people and places. I’ve taken them back to the same spot, alongside the same person. These women have reconnected with old friends who they haven’t seen in twenty-odd years.”

The group of women, who were all aged between 14 and 24 at the time of the first set of photographs, have all become quite good friends through Visible Girls; Revisited.

“I feel like we all have so much in common and so much to chat about.”

Incredibly, another Visible Girl was found just last week after the opening at Artlink in Hull:

“Liz, who lives just around the corner from the gallery, was in one of my original photos. She didn’t know about this until her husband, who volunteers for Hull 2017, heard about the exhibition,” Anita exclaims.

Visible Girls: Revisited will be displayed at Artlink on Princes Avenue until Friday 11 August. Anita is currently raising funds to to take the exhibition on a full tour.

You can help the girls out by donating via their Indiegogo page.

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Published: Thursday 13th July 2017 by Rich Sutherland

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