‘You Have What I Saw’
Photographs by Don McPhee
Friday 17th June to Friday 2nd September 2011
, Liverpool Hope University,
Creative Campus, 17 Shaw Street, Liverpool, L6 1HP
and stirring photographic exhibition at the lovely Cornerstone space is
shown as part of Look 11, Liverpool's International Photography Festival.
The featured photographer, Don McPhee (1945-2007), travelled Britain
and far beyond from the Guardian’s Manchester office for 36 years,
producing pictures which featured his unique perspective. This collection
was compiled by McPhee’s former colleagues with the help of the
Guardian, and has recently been donated to Liverpool Hope University to
form part of the University’s permanent Art Collection.
Don started working for the Guardian in 1971. For the following two decades,
working with fellow journalist and photographer Denis Thorpe, he came
to shape the newspaper's style of photographic journalism as well as influencing
that of all other serious publications.
Working mainly from Manchester and the North West but eventually travelling
all over the world, the pair's interest was in hard news stories, often
local. Trusted by staff and management, authorities and employees, and
working in mainly black and white print film, Don's images of such huge
events as the 1980s miners' strikes, the Shetland oil spill and the Lockerbie
air disaster remain in public consciousness as collective memory.
What is striking is that this is not a case of a photographer being present
when certain iconic moments took place. Rather, he created them. The most
famous images - Harold Wilson lighting his pipe, or the 'helmet-shot'
face-off from the miners' strike, ('Orgreave Colliery'), define a person,
a situation, a moment in time, forever.
Another notable factor is the versatility of the work shown here. Here
is a man who wants to know the whole story - a liberal and humanist who
appears to have asked questions others may have forgotten.
This exhibition includes iconic news pictures, portraits of politicians
and affectionate shots of the people of the north. But Don also worked
in other parts of the world including India and Shanghai, bringing the
same honesty and will to show the truth as did all his work in the north
Quite apart from his journalistic skills in creating lasting images of
once-in-a-lifetime events, as a photographer Don is also a great artist.
The beautiful landscape shots of Cumbria and Humberside stand alone as
But his sense
of humour is also obvious here. David Ward, also of The Guardian, relates
the following story: "When Tony Blair visited the set of Coronation
Street to do his man of the people bit, I was with the watching crowds
as Vera Duckworth (Liz Dawn) greeted the man soon to be prime minister.
Don, a big Corrie fan, cried: “Give him a kiss, Vera!” She
did and Don’s picture made the front page."
It is well worth the effort to visit this touching, abrasive, fine exhibition.
Although Don McPhee embraced digital photography in his later work, this
is mainly a celebration of his photography before the digital age - when
time was taken to compose one vital image which would encapsulate a moment
in time, forever.
With thanks to David Ward, a fellow Manchester-based Guardian journalist
who worked with him for 32 years, for his insights into Don McPhee's work,
and to Denis Thorpe, who has worked extremely hard to prepare this exhibition
of work by the photographer who shared 'The North' with him for 20 years.
The Exhibition is part of , Liverpool's International Photography Festival, and is open from
Friday 17th June to Friday 2nd September 2011. Admission is free.
For directions of how to get to The Cornerstone Gallery at the Creative
Campus please visit: