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Refugees, Newcomers, Citizens: migration stories from Picture Post, 1938-1955

Venue: Birkbeck 43 Gordon Square, Pelta Gallery

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Curated by Mike Berlin (Birkbeck) and Amanda Hopkinson.

This exhibition brings together for the first time, over sixty original prints by renowned émigré photographers Gerti Deutsch and Kurt Hutton, together with Bert Hardy and Haywood Magee, revealing Picture Postmagazine’s stories of refugees and immigrants to Britain from the 1930s to the 1950s.  Images focus on the Kindertransport and Windrush-era migrations, as well as on lesser-known histories of wartime African-American women Red Cross volunteers, and post-war child Holocaust survivors who found refuge in the Lake District. 

Founded in 1938 by Hungarian-Jewish refugee Stefan Lorant, Picture Postmagazine brought an innovative continental photojournalistic tradition to Britain, selling over a million copies weekly. From the start it had an unashamedly anti-fascist editorial stance, with a unique sensitivity to issues of displacement, migration and ethnicity. Striking image-led stories with titles such as “Their First Day in England” or “Is there a British Colour Bar?” showed Picture Post as distinctly attentive to the changing face of wartime and post-war Britain. This exhibition juxtaposes different yet parallel stories of migration and settlement, using original photographs generously loaned from the Getty Images Hulton Archive.  

Refugees, Newcomers, Citizens is part of Insiders/Outsiders, a year-long nationwide arts festival paying tribute to refugees from Nazi-dominated Europe and their impact on British culture. The exhibition celebrates the contribution made to British life by very different groups of immigrants, while commemorating their specific experiences of loss, dispossession and uprooting.  In today’s climate of rising xenophobia it is important to revisit these stories as a way of building solidarity and overcoming racism. 

Exhibition co-curator Amanda Hopkinson, daughter of photographer Gerti Deutsch and Picture Post editor Tom Hopkinson, and Honorary Research Professor, City University, says: 
‘For a dozen years from 1938 onwards, Picture Post was the best-selling weekly magazine of the common people albeit produced by some very individual talents. It brought to the UK a continental tradition of photo-journalism combined with a ‘strongly political and anti-fascist’ editorial position – and an eye for the unexpected and amusing. Its legacy continues to influence photojournalism to this day.’

Mike Berlin (Birkbeck) exhibition co-curator further says:
‘As we approach the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, it is an appropriate moment to mark the extraordinary contribution made to British life by refugees from the Nazis, alongside the remarkable role played by Afro-Caribbean immigrants. Both groups made their home here and helped to rebuild post-war Britain.’

4 June 2019, 6-8pm: Exhibition launch and private view. Booking details to follow.

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