Chris Killip (1946-2020)

When I heard a few days ago of the death of Chris Killip, my immediate thought was that I should write something about him here. But I was busy with other things and when I had time others had already done so, and in some cases rather better than I could have done. One article that I recommend if you have not already seen it is by John Devos on The Eye of Photography, and as well as the text it has a good representative collection of his photographs and links to several videos.

Killip was not as well known as he should be outside the limited world of photography, and this was something I wrote about in some earlier pieces here and elsewhere. He seemed to have a reluctance to show his work to a wider audience, and particularly on the web which is reflected in his web site, only set up in recent years, which I think contains only a single one of his images, and the comment:

An archive of 1400 Chris Killip images can now be viewed by anyone visiting the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol.

Chris Killip web site

I wrote at some length in 2014 about the lack of publications of his work; after Isle of Man in 1980 and In Flagrante  in 1988 it was over 20 years before more publications, by which time the earlier books had become high-priced collectors items. I’d fortunately bought both when they came out and still have them on my shelves.

And while the obituaries are full of well-deserved praise, we should not forget the slight from the photographic establishment in 2013 when although clearly his work was the most outstanding among the four shortlisted shows for the Deutsche Börse Photography prize, he was passed over, as I predicted he would be in my post Deutsche Börse Anti-Photography prize. The strength of Killip’s work was that he was a documentary photographer, something seldom appreciated by the English photographic establishment. As Adrian Searle commented in his Guardian review of the prize shows at the time (with “but one artist stands head and shoulders above the rest” in the subhead), “He should win because his work is still valuable. Much of the other work here won’t be, in 30 years’ time.” 

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