BRITISH MOOD

ENGLAND IN THE 1950s

Composed of 53 images in black and white, the exhibition shows and tells the atmosphere and the iconography of the city of London and England after World War II. Great Britain of the time is indeed a nation, or better an Empire, emerged victorious from the second world war but is economically prostrated by the war effort and in full decline. Other and more powerful empires indeed are appeared on the world scene during the conflict: the American and the Soviet one. The country finally faces up to itself and with its descending historical parable. Winston Churchill, the spotless and fearless hero of the Battle of England, is rejected at the first elections since the end of the war. To his imperial and conservative vision of society, voters prefer a future made less of glory and more of welfare. The change, indeed the revolution, is already underway. In fact, the 50s will undoubtedly be the decade of incubation that will prepare the country for the most daring generational and cultural leap: the 60s of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. But although it has arrived at the end of a cycle, the English society of the 1950s remains true to itself and to its own iconographic and social tradition. A reality apart from the rest of Europe, where cricket is a national sport, the tea time a necessary ritual, the black bowler an aspiration and everything is a matter of style.

 

The political events of the 1950s are not described in the selection of chosen images. There are no eminent characters of the time. The only concession is for Princess Margaret with the function of representing in some way the whole world of English nobility, with its imaginary, its values, its rituals, often out of time. The protagonist is instead the English society as a whole caught in its everyday life: at work, on vacation, at school, etc. Children, adults, elderly of all social classes photographed in everyday life. The images come from various British funds, both public and private, and are taken from archives of anonymous photographers and more well-known authors, photo essays for the newspapers of the time or commissioned by public bodies. Of particular interest are the shots of three extremely popular photographers in Great Britain but little known to the great Italian public: Henry Grant, John Gay and Walter Nurnberg.

The first portrayed the English capital between the 1950s and 1980s with rare sensitivity. 300 of his images are part of the project "Exploring 20th Century London - Museum of London, London Transport Museum, Jewish Museum and London Museum of Croydon". The second, of German origin, has traveled all over England for 60 years constituting a corpus of images about the daily life of the English that few authors can boast, so much so that his archive is preserved by the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England. Finally, Science and Society Picture Library (which distributes the images of the National Museums of Science and Industry - London's Science Museum, National Railway Museum and National Media Museum) proposes in its archives the photographs of Walter Nurnberg, author who revolutionized post-war English industrial photography, using in British factories, for the first time, photographic studio lighting techniques.

 

Curated by:

Alessandro Luigi Perna

A production of:

Eff&Ci - Facciamo Cose (We Do Things)

 

Pictures of:

Top Photo 

Heritage Images / AGF

S.S.P.L. - Science & Society Picture Library

background photo of the page © S.S.P.L. - Science & Society Picture Library