We Talk To Anita Corbin About Her Upcoming Show Visible Girls: Revisited



In 2017, ageing is the stuff of nightmares. We shun the natural tilt of time with fillers, silicone, Botox, pentapeptides – feed us a pseudoscientific spiel and we’ll probably try it. Photographer Anita Corbin doesn’t subscribe to all that – at least, you wouldn’t think she does, given her beautiful depiction of time and ageing in her photo series Visible Girls: Revisited.

The work began over thirty years ago, when Corbin, then a fledgling photographer, captured the subcultures of the Eighties through a series of twenty-eight double portraits, all of women, shot in their natural hangouts. Mods, skinheads, rockers, Rastas and young lesbians – these adolescent women emanated a cultural allegiance and identity that attracted Corbin to document them for her original project, Visible Girls, which toured the UK in the ’80s and ’90s.

Thirty-six years later, Corbin has shot those same women for a new exhibition, Visible Girls: Revisited, which maps their transformation and individual stories over the period with new portraits that will be shown alongside the originals. The women, most of whom were found via an international social media outreach campaign, will once again be the subject of an exhibition that tours the country until 2020, with each iteration inspired by the voice of the respective city. Opening today in Exeter before a nationwide tour, we spoke to Anita to find out more…

FINN BLYTHE: How did the project initially come about? Did you know when you started out that you would revisit the couples? 

ANITA CORBIN: In August 1980 I’d just turned twenty two, I was living in Covent Garden, and studying photography in Central London right at the beginning of my career. Everything started to take off that summer. I started to follow my path into portrait photography, and I knew then that people would be my inspiration. I’m a Londoner born and bred, and I became interested in the way we express ourselves through the informal uniforms of youth after a previous project looking at ‘Women in (formal) Uniform’ – my first foray in to photographing  people.

The original portraits capture a moment in our lives, they were considered and very much in their time. Did I think we would meet again ? I might have joked about it, I like to think I had that much forethought, but I was more interested in right then, right now. But interestingly, I did try and revisit them ten years later to no avail, so had to shelve the idea for 25 years.
 
FB: When you did revisit the subjects, was there a sense of familiarity, or had the women changed completely?

AC: There was something really beautiful and exciting about meeting the women again. We all had something in common – we’d been in the same place at the same time all those years ago. And I was so happy to meet Tessa and Charlotte, the first of the Revisited in 2014, it was the start of something that I’d been dreaming of for 25 years. The women had changed too. We were older and wiser, it felt good to be embracing our youth again in our mid fifties and connecting with that energy.

FB: If the identity of the young women was defined by their subcultures, what is it defined by today?

AC: Some are still involved with their subcultures, especially the mods. But like most women nowadays we’re juggling many balls; careers, families and our dreams. We don’t need the structure of subculture so much now, but we still need our friends and each other. 

FB: Why was this important to be about women?
 
AC: I was a young woman learning to be a photographer but also exploring my own identity. I wanted to express our reality as young women at this pivotal time in our lives. Back in 1980, most of the pictures being taken were in grainy black and white and usually by men. I was interested in the colour, style and sass.


FB: Has the way you look at those original images changed over the years?

AC: The Visible Girls have always been part of my life as a photographer, they are my foundation in a way. The images are loaded with the kind of energy that drives me as a photographer today, it’s a raw energy. When I started to reconnect with the Visible Girls images, I began to see more detail in every picture, I suppose with the passage of time, the act of photographing becomes more significant as we move down the road. Then, when I re-photographed the women today, the original picture opened up with even more detail, the circle was complete, you could see that woman in that Visible Girl.

FB: Would there ever be a third instalment?

AC: Good question! I would love to think I’ll still be shooting portraits when I’m 95….it would be great to photograph all the children of the Visible Girls one day!

Visible Girls: Revisited will be on at the Exeter, Phoenix from 17th November to 21st December 2017, Norwich Arts Centre from 7th February to 14th March 2018 and Bristol Trinity Centre from 6th September – 4th October 2018

visiblegirls.com