New exhibition spotlights East End’s independent film and photography history

The show features every issue of influential photography magazine Camerawork and work by film workshop Four Corners, both of which were based on east London’s Roman Road in the 70s and 80s

In 1972 four filmmakers – Joanna Davis, Mary Pat Leece, Ron Peck and Wilf Thust – came together to set up a new film workshop and cinema on Roman Road in east London. The aim of Four Corners was to bring the craft of filmmaking to those who had previously been excluded from the practice. Its early films also turned the lens on diverse communities who had largely been ignored up until then, including East End working class women, Bangladeshis and London’s gay scene.

Around the same time, a workshop and gallery called The Half Moon Photography Workshop (later known as Camerawork) opened up two doors down from Four Corners on Roman Road. They began publishing Camerawork magazine in 1976, with a focus on demystifying and democratising the practice of photography. It became known for its visual commentary on the political and social upheavals of the time such as The Troubles in Ireland, and working with renowned photographers such as Martin Parr and Chris Steele-Perkins.

Camerawork issue 14, 1979
Camerawork issue 8, 1977

These two organisations were fundamental in revolutionising London’s independent film and photography scene in the 1970s and 1980s, and their contribution to the movement is now being celebrated as part of a new retrospective exhibition at Four Corners, which still exists on Roman Road.

The centre was given a £100,000 grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2016 to research and archive its early work along with that of Camerawork. This research has culminated in a digital archive and accompanying exhibition showcasing the two organisations’ work from 1972-1987. The archive will see sixteen films, more than 1,000 photographs, posters, recordings and all 32 issues of Camerawork digitised for the first time.

A folding session for Issue 6 of Camerawork magazine with founder members (left to right) Jo Spence, Shirley Read and Ed Barber, 1977 © Mike Goldwater
Two staff members adding the signage to the front of the Half Moon Photography Workshop, 1977 © David Gordon

The exhibition will include archive material and photos form the likes of Susan Meiselas, Mike Goldwater and Peter Kennard, alongside posters, extracts from Four Corners’ films, oral histories and an accompanying public talks programme run in partnership with Birkbeck, University of London.

Radical Visions: The early history of Four Corners and Camerawork 1972-1987 runs until 22 September 2018. Find out more here and access the full digital archive here

Camerawork Magazine issue 19, 1980

GRAPHIC DESIGNER

London, EC3R

SENIOR DESIGNER

Guildford, Surrey