Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers

Art, Photography
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 (© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
 (Henri Cartier-Bresson: 'Coronation of King George VI, Trafalgar Square, London, 12 May', 1937. © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos)
Henri Cartier-Bresson: 'Coronation of King George VI, Trafalgar Square, London, 12 May', 1937. © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos
 (Tina Barney: 'The Red Sheath', 2001. © Tina Barney, Courtesy of Paul Kasmin Gallery )
Tina Barney: 'The Red Sheath', 2001. © Tina Barney, Courtesy of Paul Kasmin Gallery
 (Candida Höfer: 'Liverpool IX', 1968. © Candida Höfer, Köln; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015)
Candida Höfer: 'Liverpool IX', 1968. © Candida Höfer, Köln; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015
 (Akihiko Okamura: 'Northern Ireland', 1970s. © Akihiko Okamura / Courtesy of the Estate of Akihiko Okamura, Hakodate, Japan)
Akihiko Okamura: 'Northern Ireland', 1970s. © Akihiko Okamura / Courtesy of the Estate of Akihiko Okamura, Hakodate, Japan
 (Akihiko Okamura: 'Northern Ireland', 1970s. © Akihiko Okamura / Courtesy of the Estate of Akihiko Okamura, Hakodate, Japan)
Akihiko Okamura: 'Northern Ireland', 1970s. © Akihiko Okamura / Courtesy of the Estate of Akihiko Okamura, Hakodate, Japan
 (Edith Tudor-Hart: 'Gee Street, Finsbury, London, c1936. © Edith Tudor-Hart / National Galleries of Scotland)
Edith Tudor-Hart: 'Gee Street, Finsbury, London, c1936. © Edith Tudor-Hart / National Galleries of Scotland
 (Edith Tudor-Hart: 'Kensal House, London', c1938. © Edith Tudor-Hart / National Galleries of Scotland)
Edith Tudor-Hart: 'Kensal House, London', c1938. © Edith Tudor-Hart / National Galleries of Scotland
 (Cas Oorthuys: 'London', 1953. © Cas Oorthuys/Nederlands Fotomuseum)
Cas Oorthuys: 'London', 1953. © Cas Oorthuys/Nederlands Fotomuseum
 (Hans van der Meer: 'Mytholmroyd, England', 2004. © Hans van der Meer/Courtesy of the Artist)
Hans van der Meer: 'Mytholmroyd, England', 2004. © Hans van der Meer/Courtesy of the Artist
 (Tristan Fewings)
Tristan Fewings
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 15: Visitors attend the press view of Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers, curated by Martin Parr, 16 march - 19 June 2016 at Barbican Centre on March 15, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for the Barbican Art Gallery)
 (© Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images)
© Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images
 (© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
 (© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
 (© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
 (Sergio Larrain: 'London. Baker Street underground station' 1958-1959. © Sergio Larrain/Magnum Photos)
Sergio Larrain: 'London. Baker Street underground station' 1958-1959. © Sergio Larrain/Magnum Photos

This is an exhibition for anyone who has ever queued for a bus, stared longingly into a cake shop window, blown bubbles just for the fun of it, picknicked in the car in the rain, been in love, worn a hat, walked down a high street… If you don’t recognise yourself in that list, or in the photographs in this show, then I’m calling you out, you droid. Selecting 23 photographers from overseas who have come to these shores armed with rampant curiosity and a killer eye for a great shot, ace photographer Martin Parr has put together one of the most involving and moving exhibitions of the year. It’s chock full of photography legends – ‘eye of the century’ Henri Cartier-Bresson, the staggeringly compassionate Robert Frank – and charts the rise of the medium from the 1930s to now.

But, from the off, it’s about the man and woman on the street, about us. It’s remarkable how few famous, or even named, people appear. Cartier-Bresson first came to this country to photograph the coronation of George VI (our current queen’s stuttering papa) in 1937 but, mindful of the communist leanings of the magazine he was working for at the time, turned his back on the pomp to photograph the throng. Throughout, the only clues as to these forgotten lives are in titles such as ‘Headwaiter’ (by Evelyn Hofer) or ‘Homeless’ (Gian Butturini). Filling in the blanks is part of this show’s joy. 

Parr’s hands may be all over this selection, and you can immediately see what the master of revealing, offbeat moments enjoys about, say, the pore-deep scrutiny of Bruce Gilden’s shockingly real street portraits. But Parr’s curatorial grip is relaxed. He coaxes meanings and brings out surprising moments of pathos and poetry. Sure, there are clichés – bowler hatted City gents pacing the smoggy streets, Minis and mini skirts. But this is also a serious document about our changing culture. The images get bigger and more colourful as photography becomes an artform in its own right. But the show is best on a small scale, shot from the top deck of a speeding bus,from a mouse’s perspective on an Underground platform, from the hip and from the heart. 

By: Martin Coomer


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Loved the pizzette and then the fried fish or fritto misto. Good wine and great prices. Service was cordial and attentive and the atmosphere was great for a Monday night.


For someone relatively uninitiated with the world of photography, this was an insightful look at Britain through the eyes of foreign photographers. Interestingly, it's often the things we take for granted and are immune to that stand out as the true characteristics of the places we live. 

Being from Northern Ireland, I particularly enjoyed that section as it showed people attempting to continue with daily life in the era of 'The Troubles'. Definitely worth a visit


Yet again the the Barbican manages to create a thought provoking photography exhibition.  The pieces are different enough in style to keep you interested but having a core theme running through it to make the exhibition feel like it has a story to tell. 

It really showed the breadth of our beautiful country in way I have never seen before. Each artists pieces opened my eyes in a slightly different way. 

Definitely worth a visit and make sure you leave a few hours for the gallery. Also good idea to go on a Sunday and then you can pop into the conservatory as well. 


Not growing up in the UK this exhibition included a lot of reading for me, I was learning about the past of a very isolated country, and coming from Europe it was strange to see how each different thing was familiar in the history of the cultures I grew up in as well. I think the title of the exhibition is perfect. 

The way the images span over a wide set of years show us a bit of an evolution of the time and the type of people the UK has. What impressed me was the variety in photographic styles. It showed how creative and individual people are making me feel a little bit more in tune with the country and city I live in now. 

I recommend heading to this exhibition alone, it takes a toll on your mind if you lack sense of belonging and everyone will process what they see differently. Some will only see history, or changes within a community they knew of, but give yourself the time to process and take in what you're seeing. 


Strange and Familiar is an intriguing, fascinating and insightful glimpse into life in Britain from the 1930’s to the present day.

Curated by Martin Parr and exhibited on the third floor of the Barbican Centre, Strange &  Familiar brings together more than 250 compelling images capturing the society, the culture, economic and political identity of Britain from year gone by. I find it fascinating to see some of the streets I walk everyday back as it was back more 50 years ago. And it’s nice to see that even the “stand on the right-hand side of the escalators rue still exists even as far as the 1930’s. Very British.

Much of the photograph exhibited are in London. But Strange & Familiar also features  places as far as Wales and Scotland. From the highlands to the coal mines. For those images that do capture London, it not only captures poignant images from landmarks that are so loved and familiar, it also captures bits of London that is often overlooked. The swinging 60’s wasn't all that fun for some, you know, and you’ll have to visit to find out why...

Worth having a look around especially for the photographers among us. Remember, the Barbican Conservatory is also open to the public on Sundays so go on that day to see the exhibition and this tropical oasis, home to over more than 2,000 species of plants, at the same time.


A very interesting way to spend a Wednesday evening. Barbican is a great venue for this thought provoking collection of photos. I spent an hour and a half but could easily have stayed longer. Bruce Gilden's close up shots of faces were particularly confronting. Recommended.

It is odd to experience how other see London and Londoners, through a lense. Familiar and strange at the same time, indeed. The quality of the photographs is excellent and the keen eye of Martin Parr allows to see a very specific interpretation of London. Probably not the London you and I have experienced, but real none the less. 


What better way to start an exhibition than with a beer in the Barbican's beautiful tropical garden (worth a visit itself). The exhibit documents social, moral and aesthetic changes in British culture from the 1930's to present day. It is well laid out and has a natural fluency in it's approach, with the gallery feeling intimate but also creating a wonderful sense of space for the photos to live in. 

I am a keen amateur photographer and I love a well composed photograph but I am not so keen on any kind of art that requires an explanation for the piece to be understood. Strange and Familiar is a mixed bag in this case with some sections leaving me slightly bemused. However the quality of the majority of works here is top notch. Photos from Raymond Depardon, Bruce Gildon, Gas Oorthuys, Hans Eijkelboom and Akihiko Okamura were fantastic. Changing tastes taken at the Bullring in Birmingham was a highlight. 

Art is about experiencing new things and I feel the pricing to exhibits such as this can be prohibitive to new audiences, limiting their reach. This was a very interesting experience and it is a shame so many people will miss it. Wish I could have supplied some photos (of photos) but didn't realise I was going to be allowed to use my camera so I left it at home. 


This exhibition features a couple of hundred snapshots to give an insightful portrayal of Great Britain and British life  from 1930 to present day. It's a wonderful mix of photographs and viewpoints capturing many curious snippets of life, many of which masterfully capture Britain's spirit and eccentricity through the ages all of which have been selected by the exhibition curator iconic British photographer Martin Parr. There are over 250 photographs so it's worth allowing yourself time to get lost in them; so at least an hour and a half if not two. Everything from poverty, war, opulence, celebration and of corse jubilees are covered by some of the leading photographers of their time and there is also enough but not too much accompanying written commentary. The layout and lighting for the exhibition are also a little different to the norm and assist in presenting the photos almost as a story and act as the icing on the cake to this fascinating exhibition.


Strange and Familiar is a captivating history of modern Britain told through the photographs of a number of renowned international photographers. If you want to see an honest and real picture of Britain- be sure not to miss this one.


Tackling a theme as broad as the representation of Britain through a foreigners' lens, this exhibition could have gone badly wrong, but Mr Parr nailed it spot on! The show presents a broad range of work, radically different in style, approach and the choice of subject, and takes you through a century worth of images. Important exhibition, from both historical and photographic perspectives - don't miss!


I loved this enormous photography exhibition at the Barbican. Strange and Familiar brings together works from 23 photographers, showcasing so many different styles and subjects around the UK from about the 1930’s through to present. I especially liked Hans Eijkerboom’s video of shoppers at Birmingham’s Bull Ring. Apart from a write up about each photographer, there isn’t much text to go along with each photo. I liked this as sometimes find too much text takes away from what’s actually on display, in this case hundreds of photographs which can speak for themselves.


Really enjoyed this exhibition curated by Martin Parr which gives a fascinating look at the British people and culture through the eyes of 23 photographers from around the world. Each room is dedicated to a different photographer with a specific style and approach to British society. The exhibition is very accessible to everyone. You don't need to have a good general knowledge about photography as each photographer's approach is very well explained. In my opinion, the highlights of the exhibitions was the final headshots which were beautiful and heartbreaking in the same time. I would definitely recommend this exhibition as it's a great way to have a new look at British society and to discover amazing photography talents. 


I was excited to come to this exhibition because as a professional photographer it's important to keep seeing other people's work, and I'm also a big fan of Martin Parr. I especially like his early photos, which had a voyeurism and simplicity about them as he captured disappearing traditions and practices of rural Britain. 

Best known now for his colour pop and humorous images, it was good to see his curation of the exhibition lean towards his original style, with the exception of the super close-up portraits by Bruce Gilden, which definitely had the contemporary Parr touch.

What I found most entertaining about the exhibition, was seeing, through the eyes of these photographers, Britain's incredible change over the last hundred years. Although I've seen quite a few historical photo exhibitions, I've never seem them presented together like this documenting a large period of time. I'm not sure I would have picked up on the fact that all the photographers were international, if I hadn't known, but if you read the blurb next to each new section, the history and background of each photographer definitely adds another element.

Overall a great 'time-capsule' exhibition, with a wide range of photos, well displayed and at a fantastic venue. Allow at least two hours if you really want to take it all in.


I really enjoyed the exhibition. The Photos are presented well and the exhibition is easy to follow. There are a huge amount to see and a large array of photographers. The description of each photographer was very long and detailed.

I would really recommend.

Comprehensive photo survey. Takes around 2 hours to fully appreciate. Many well known name photographers plus a few lesser known. What was just photography back then, now classified as street photography now. Good overview for all students of photography.


A collection of indeed strange and familiar photographs of British life throughout the decades.  There's something quite hypnotic about the collections, an honesty in their unapologetic baring all way.  Proving that a picture really is worth a thousand words.  A well worth visiting exhibition. 

Staff Writertastemaker

I really enjoyed this show, there is  a fair amount of work to wander around and each photographer gets a nice spotlight because of the small cubby rooms upstairs in the gallery.

It would have been nice to see some of Martin Parr's work (rather than his curation) along side the show and I noticed how much I prefered the ;larger printed images- its a shame a lot of rooms went for large number of images rather than printing larger....

None the less theres lots to see and lots of it really interesting, as ever with the Barbican, well worth a visit!


I thoroughly enjoyed this exhibition. Curated by Martin Parr, it showcases Britain through the eyes and lenses of international photographers and is worth a visit for those interested in either or both photography and British history. Works from Henri Cartier-Bresson were wonderful, as expected. It was Garry Winogrand's pieces and JIm Dow's collection of corner shops that stood out for me. There are some incredibly well-timed and humorous moments frozen in time.  I went on Easter Sunday around 2pm and it was already quite busy. When we left by 3pm there was an even bigger queue to get in - it's already proving to be very popular so I urge you to go before it gets too crowded! There is a catalogue of the pieces available but I wish I could have taken away a few of my favourites away on postcards; alas there were only a few of these brilliant works printed on post cards.

I was lucky enough to go see this last night and thought it was incredible, especially Bruce Gilden's portraits which were both beautiful and shocking. I found this part of the exhibition the most interesting - you can paint your own picture of each person. Bruce Gilden also published a book called the 'Examination of Middlesex' giving the reader a peek into the mundane, beautiful and sad which is totally worth a look.

Allow plenty time to appreciate this major photography show. I especially loved the galleries upstairs, which are like a birds eye view of twentieth century street life, via archive photography from the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson, and other eminent visitors with a camera.