Black and white photograph of a signpost in the desert that reads 'Come see', taken from the book 'David Hurn Photographs 1955-2022'

A new book charts the breadth of David Hurn’s photography

David Hurn: Photographs 1955–2022 presents the photographer’s most important images taken over nearly seven decades

Bristol-based publisher RRB Photobooks has released a new monograph of work by British photographer David Hurn (who recently appeared on CR with his photos for an episode of Black Mirror). Spanning a period of 67 years and drawing from his extensive archive of photographs, the book traces his illustrious career from early shots of London in the 1950s to images created around his current home of Tintern, Wales.

Born in Surrey, England in 1934, Hurn first ventured into the world of photography when he was 21 years old via an assistant position at the Reflex Agency. By the next year, he was already establishing himself as a documentary photographer in his own right, as he travelled to Hungary to capture the 1956 Revolution – a photo of which can be found in the opening of the book.

Black and white photograph of two people wearing white dresses sat at a table with a partner in a suit, with their backs to each other, taken from the book 'David Hurn Photographs 1955-2022'
Queen Charlotte’s Ball, London, 1967. All images © David Hurn/Magnum Photos

Returning to London, he began documenting a revolution of a different kind: the social revolution of the 50s and 60s as changes in class and demographics gave rise to a new era of hedonism and pop culture.

During this period, Hurn worked for publications such as the Sunday Times, Queen Magazine, and Town Magazine, and shot some of the biggest figures of the day, including The Beatles, Sean Connery, and Jane Fonda. It was also around this time that he became a member of the prestigious Magnum Photos.

Black and white photograph of a group of people bending over to touch their toes in unison in a large grassy field lined with palm trees, taken from the book 'David Hurn Photographs 1955-2022'
Early morning exercise class, Mesa, 1980

More of Hurn’s iconic photographs came in 1966 as he captured the aftermath of the Aberfan disaster in Wales. A single image in the book reveals the chaos that he encountered upon arriving in the small village, watching from above as miners struggled desperately to pull victims from the coal slag heap that had cascaded down from a nearby mountain.

The event had a profound effect on Hurn, who decided shortly after to leave his home in London, where he had lived for the past 20 years, and relocate to Wales, “the land of his forefathers”.

Black and white photograph of two young people with their arms around each other and their backs to the camera, overlooking crowds of people and rubble resulting from the Aberfan mining disaster, taken from the book 'David Hurn Photographs 1955-2022'
Coal Slip Disaster, Aberfan, 1966

This move marked not just a return to the country of his ancestors, but also a more slow-paced approach in his photographic practice. Having grown tired of working in a commercial capacity, he yearned for a quieter, more reflexive process, and as a result spent the next year living in a van, travelling around Wales, and attempting to capture and understand the complexities of its people and culture.

Happy to be away from the hustle and bustle of London, he decided to stay put for a while, and quickly made his next big career move by founding the School of Documentary Photography in Newport, where he taught until 1989.

Black and white photograph showing three adults lying on a grassy hillside next to a sleeping dog overlooking the sea, with a child sat on an old cannon in the background alongside other visitors, taken from the book 'David Hurn Photographs 1955-2022'
The promenade, Tenby, 1974
Black and white photograph of a child riding on the back of a pram pushing a child down a street, with another person and a dog running alongside, while a band walks behind them in a procession, taken from the book 'David Hurn Photographs 1955-2022'
Last Civic Parade to be held in the town, Llanidloes, 1973

At this point, Hurn left the world of documentary photojournalism behind for good, opting instead to pursue projects of a more personal nature. Photographs from these later years can be found at the end of the book, and while there is no obvious thematic thread between them, there is evidence of Hurn’s unending curiosity for the world around him.

In his essay in the final pages, Isaac Blease, an archivist at the Martin Parr Foundation, explains Hurn’s ongoing mantra: “Life as it unfolds in front of the camera is so full of complexity, wonder and surprise that I find it unnecessary to create new realities.”

Black and white photograph of a group of women sitting at tables dressed in the style of Dolly Parton as part of a lookalike competition, taken from the book 'David Hurn Photographs 1955-2022'
Dolly Parton lookalike Competition, Phoenix, 1979
Black and white photograph of two children wearing frilly dresses dancing in a ballroom dance competition, with two people wearing suits and holding clipboards behind them, taken from the book 'David Hurn Photographs 1955-2022'
Junior Wales ballroom dancing championships, 1973
Black and white photograph of a young person wearing swimming shorts leaping into the water below, with their arms outstretched and legs pointing in the air, as other children lie in rubber rings beneath, taken from the book 'David Hurn Photographs 1955-2022'
Tubing on Salt River, Salt City, 1980
Black and white photograph of a person wearing a suit reaching up to catch a balloon during a ball, with a trophy on the table next to him, taken from the book 'David Hurn Photographs 1955-2022'
Retired gentleman at the MG Car Owners Ball, Edinburgh, 1967

David Hurn: Photographs 1955–2022 is published by RRB Photobooks;