Mass Observation

Mass Observation exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery

The Photograrphers' Gallery
The Photographers’ Gallery

Just managed to catch this intriguing exhibition before it closed on 29 September. Visual images and written accounts collected as part of the Mass Observation projects chartered different aspects of daily life in Britain from the 1930s onwards.

The photographs are stunning, not just in the detail portrayed of people at work and play, but as pieces of art in their own right. The picture of the street barber with his mad ‘Sideshow Bob’ hair is not easily forgotten. The study of the circus, the industrial mill town and the rural community were just a few of the projects on display.

What I found amazing, though, was the way that some of the investigations were carried out. People were spied upon and their every action recorded. This ranged from the method that a woman applied to scrubbing her front steps through to voyeuristic accounts of the activities of courting couples on the beach. No detail seemed to be too insignificant or intrusive. I suppose now we have technology to record our every move, correspondence and transaction, but this serves as reminder that nothing is truly private.

More information about the Mass Observation archive can be found on its website.