The exhibition brings together original images of women from different subcultures of the early 1980s and newly commissioned portraits of the same women now.
This work reunites women with their adolescent selves, exploring the ways in which photography can reveal and reflect upon identity and society at various stages of women's lives.
In 1981, as a young female photographer at the beginning of her career, Corbin made 28 double portraits of young women from different cultural groups: skins, mods, punks, rockabillies, new romantics, Rastas and young lesbians. She was fascinated by the ways in which cultural allegiance and identity were boldly and explicitly expressed through fashion, music and environment by women emerging from adolescence. Captured in their natural hangouts of clubs, pubs, friends’ homes and social centres, these girls were living in the moment and dreaming of the future. The resultant, ground-breaking project Visible Girls, toured the UK in the ‘80s and ‘90s, showing in youth clubs, town halls and libraries. The images were a rarity for the time, not only because of their subjects but because of the photographer's technical approach using slow colour film and portable flash.
In 2016 Corbin launched an international social media campaign in order to track the women down. Now, 38 years later and with over 80% of the women found, the original images of those ‘Visible Girls’ will be displayed alongside a new series - photographs of the women they became.
Anita Corbin says:
This exhibition is not only about the powerful bond between women united by subculture, belief and friendship, but about the potential of women coming together across generations. Visible Girls: Revisited, allows the ‘visibility’ of youth to shine a light on the often-disregarded wisdom of the older woman, revealing a unique, cross-generational tribe with the power to provoke and inspire. Visible Girls: Revisited is an exhibition where mothers and daughters will find mutually provocative ground through which to forge a rare solidarity - that at this point in our history we need more than ever.
At the Norwich Arts Centre exhibition opening in February 2018, two new double portraits taken by Corbin in 2017 will be revealed for the first time.
The first is of Claire and Lisa, originally photographed at the British Museum and rediscovered via a Buzzfeed article about the project.
Claire Hildreth says of being tracked down and re-photographed:
As soon as I saw the title of the Buzzfeed article [the first shout-out for the original Visible Girls in 2014] I recalled having our photo taken by Anita in 1981. Seeing that picture again was a bit embarrassing - but also kind of cute! At the time, the music was the most important thing to me and I dressed to let people know that. The politics that went with the 2Tone scene were part of who I was and have, in part, shaped who I am now. Myself and Lisa stayed friends through all those years.
The second portrait is of Liz and Jan, originally photographed at the Blitz Club in 1980. Liz was discovered when her husband - a volunteer for Hull UK City of Culture 2017 – Googled Visible Girls: Revisited after hearing about it at a party. They were shocked to see Liz’s picture as part of the show – and even more shocked to discover that the exhibition was on display less than 500 yards from their house! After a search through an old address book, Liz found a number for Jan and they were reunited for the first time in 33 years at the shoot for their Revisited portrait.
Do you know any of these Visible Girls? The search continues for the remaining 20% of the missing subjects - join us on social media and help us find them #VisibleGirls.
A special events programme accompanies the Norwich Arts Centre exhibition, including an artist’s talk with Anita Corbin on Saturday 24 February 2018. Anita Corbin will also be taking to the streets of Norwich, photographing and interviewing pairs of friends to capture the spirit of Norwich – it’s subcultures and friendships - on Sunday 25 and Monday 26 February 2018.