The View of Britain session was an opportunity for members of the Forum to share their photographs of this country, looking at things that are typically British. Subjects could include landscapes, towns, villages, buildings, pastimes and traditional events, indeed anything they thought of as identifiably British.
My brief introduction skipped through the work of P H Emerson, Frank Meadow Sutcliffe, Bill Brandt, Edwin Smith, Tony Ray Jones, Homer Sykes, Ian Berry, Martin Parr, Fay Godwin, John Davies, Don McCullin and Charlie Waite. Thirteen members submitted 42 pictures ranging from cathedrals to cottages, parades to pasties and exhibitions to exhibitionists. The focus was on England rather than the whole of Britain. I grouped them into six rough categories: landscape, built environment, traditions and events, sports, people and icons and other.
By and large people avoided the obvious images of Britain, those iconic scenes that feature so strongly in the publicity of tourist boards. This was mirrored on the strong showing of local features, almost half were of Cambridge or within East Anglia. The avoidance of visual clichés meant that the Britishness sometimes had to be teased out of the pictures – dress, motifs, behaviour, patterns of fields, architectural details, the juxtaposition of features and so on.
Photos: 1. King’s College, Cambridge, 2017; 2. Clare College May Ball, Cambridge, 1984; 3. Aldeburgh, 2011