Jacob Charles Wilson

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Inside the Archive of Often Overlooked Street Photographer Shirley Baker

for AnOther Magazine
Two young girls with hairsprayed neon hair are caught in the street, watching something off-camera.

There are few books on Manchester-born photographer Shirley Baker. Only a couple were published during her life, and even then, if you read them closely, you realise that each book simply copies the earlier ones, to the point that our view of Baker is incredibly narrow and uninformed. Thankfully, in editing her new book on Baker's work, Lou Stoppard actually visited the 'archive' at Baker's daughter's house, where memorabilia is piled up alongside unseen negatives and meticulously filed letters. Stoppard shows a new side to Baker, she's more than a simple documentarian of post-war northern England, she holidays in the sun-kissed south of France, Italy, and Japan, where in place of red-brick terraces she finds humour in coincidences and illusions. There's a new story to be told of Baker, and this is the start.

Never imposing herself, Baker was expert at waiting for or happening upon the right moments. In each picture her inquisitive lens distils the tension between our propensity to act out exaggerated personas in public, through dress and habits, and the simultaneous ease with which being in a crowd allows us to slip into obscurity, relax, and reveal our private selves.