Remembering Brian Griffin (1948-2024) – 1854 Pictures

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London calling

Griffin was additionally a pioneer within the discipline of photobooks. Parr reckons he was the primary photographer within the UK to go the self-publishing route as an act of inventive independence, collaborating together with his nice good friend and “soul brother”, the acclaimed graphic designer, Barney Bubbles. There could be many extra books all through his profession, and one in every of them, Work, marked a highpoint and in some senses a closure to the primary half of his profession. It was revealed in 1988 alongside a one-man present on the Nationwide Portrait Gallery, and went on to be awarded the very best pictures ebook on the Barcelona Primavera Fotografica in 1991.

A lot of it was drawn from his finest identified company fee to {photograph} the brand new Broadgate improvement within the Metropolis of London. Typical of Griffin, he selected to raise not the brand new buildings or the financiers, however the staff who constructed it. “Rosehaugh Stanhope, the builders, have been erecting sculptures round Broadgate however none of them paid heed to the employees constructing the undertaking,” Griffin wrote in his 2021 self-published biography, Black Nation Dada. “So, Peter [Davenport, the designer who commissioned him] and I made a decision to create our personal sculpture. Nonetheless, this was a residing sculpture utilizing one of many undertaking staff, Eric Foster, a metal erector.”

Griffin spent the Nineties capturing music movies and TV commercials, co-founding his personal manufacturing firm. In 2003, he was invited to help Birmingham’s bid to turn into the European Capital Metropolis of Tradition. His return to pictures after 12 years away sparked newfound curiosity in his again catalogue. Artwork Museum Reykjavik staged a retrospective in 2005, adopted by large-scale exhibitions specializing in varied points of his observe in Arles, Birmingham and Bologna, together with dozens of smaller reveals. Griffin grew to become a patron of Derby’s Format Pictures Competition in 2009 – the identical yr he was honoured with a significant retrospective in Arles – and 4 years later obtained the Centenary Medal from the Royal Photographic Society and an Honorary Doctorate from Birmingham Metropolis College.

A ‘uncommon’ generosity

But his starvation to make distinctive pictures by no means diminished, and he remained prolific as each a photographer-for-hire and an artist in his personal proper. His private tasks have been extra tightly conceptualised and but extra different of their focus, starting from Gary, a collection on his neighbours in Rotherhithe, the place he lived and labored for greater than 40 years; The Black Kingdom, primarily based on his early years within the Nineteen Fifties and 60s; and Spud, inspired by a residency in Béthune-Bruay in Northern France, marking the centenary of the top of World Conflict I.

There have been extra main commissions too – notably for Reykjavik Power, one other for HSI and the opening of St Pancras station, and better of all, to his thoughts, for London’s Olympic Video games Street to 2012, which he was decided to shoot, and was commissioned by Braybon for the Nationwide Portrait Gallery. “He was daring. He all the time went his personal approach,” s he recollects. “On the opening, Nadav Kander walked in to see Brian’s work, naming him ‘the grasp.’”

Hyman, who had deliberate to work with Griffin on a brand new retrospective this yr, is definite of his significance within the story of British pictures. “He’s acquired a central place in that historical past. He was additionally a really particular person voice.” Like everybody else contacted for this text, Hyman mentions Griffin’s vivacity and generosity of spirit. Magdalena Shackleton, who confirmed Griffin’s solo exhibitions at her MMX Gallery in South London, fondly remembers their journeys to artwork festivals collectively – and Griffin surrounded by buddies of their native pub. “He all the time met individuals on the identical degree, whoever they have been, and wherever they fitted into the enterprise world or the artwork world,” says Hébel. “He would pull out somewhat one thing of his topics so you’d perceive their position. However there was no hierarchy. And that’s extremely uncommon.”

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