human endeavour, photography, thoughts and ideas

Byker, by Sirkka Liisa Konttinen

Posted in Uncategorized by humanendeavour photography on October 22, 2010


Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen (Photographer)

Text drawn from Amber Catalogue, 1987:

Byker was suffering from extensive neglect when Sirkka arrived, its decline mirrored by the slow dismantling of engineering works and shipyards. Entranced by the directness of the people, by the ability to survive harsh conditions and sweeping changes with dignity and humour, she set about recording in words and images the place and its people.

All in all Sirkka spent over a decade documenting Byker as it fell under the redeveloper’s hammer. The planner’s dream, the people’s nightmare. Like much of the redevelopments of the sixties and seventies it was the destruction not only of homes but of working class culture and close relationships which were never re-established in the schemes that replaced the so-called slums. At the end of the carnage part of the spirit of the place had gone and less than one fifth of the original inhabitants remained.

Note: As she embarked on her seminal documentation of Byker, Sirkka became aware of the plans to demolish it for the wholesale redevelopment that was to include the Byker Wall. She photographed the community over a twelve year period, the celebrated, resulting body of work touring the world. Beyond the influence it has had on documentary practice, the work has been used widely by architects and town planners among others. The work was developed as a book, first published by Jonathan Cape in 1983, then by Bloodaxe in 1985, reprinted in association with Amberside in 1988. As with all Sirkka’s long-term projects, the work was also developed by Amber as a film (1983). Both book and video are available from the Amber website.



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