In 1981, a young Anita Corbin took 28 double portraits of young women from different cultural groups. She documented skins, mods, punks, rockabillies, new romantics, rastas and young lesbians at the beginning of her career. She was fascinated by the ways in which cultural allegiance and identity were boldly and explicitly expressed through fashion, music and environment by women emerging from adolescence. Anita was recently commissioned to take these images around the country for her travelling exhibition, Visible Girls: Revisited.
The exhibition brings together original images of women from different subcultures of the early 1980s and newly commissioned portraits of the same women now. Her work reveals and reflects upon identity and society at various stages of women’s lives. The images act as a rarity for the time, not only because of their subjects but because of the photographer’s technical approach using slow colour film and portable flash.
Anita spoke about her work and exhibition recently. She said, “This exhibition is not only about the powerful bond between women united by subculture, belief and friendship, but about the potential of women coming together across generations. Visible Girls: Revisited, allows the ‘visibility’ of youth to shine a light on the often-disregarded wisdom of the older woman, revealing a unique, cross-generational tribe with the power to provoke and inspire. Visible Girls: Revisited is an exhibition where mothers and daughters will find mutually provocative ground through which to forge a rare solidarity – that at this point in our history we need more than ever.”
Last year Corbin launched an international social media campaign in order to track the women down. Now, 36 years later and with over 70% of the women found, the original images of those young women will be displayed alongside a new series – of the women they became.
The 56 women who feature in the images were mainly from London but some were on a day trip or on holiday in the city when Corbin photographed them, many are now living in Europe or further afield. The exhibition will tour England – each location will have a unique presentation inspired by the voice of the city.
The exhibition explores the individual stories behind each image, seeing how the women’s lives have changed since the original shot was taken. What has happened in those 36 years? Have their lives developed as they imagined? How have changes in society and its attitudes to women affected them?
Do you know any of these Visible Girls? The search continues for the remaining 30% of the missing subjects – join us on social media and help us find them #VisibleGirls.
Hull, Artlink: 7 July 2017 – 11 August 2017
Exeter, Phoenix: 17 November – 21 December 2017
Norwich Arts Centre: 7 February – 14 March 2018
Bristol, 3CA: 6 September – 4 October 2018
All images were taken by Anita Corbin.