The photographs of Shirley Baker (first shown in the acclaimed 'Here Yesterday, and Gone Today' exhibition at Salford Art Gallery in 1986) were taken mainly between 1960 and 1973 and capture a time of rapid social and economic change in the lives of working class people in Manchester and Salford.
The 1930s saw the beginning of systematic clearance of slums, a process interrupted by the Second World War and only resumed in earnest in the late 1950s. In the twenty years between 1955 and 1975, some 1.3 million homes were demolished nationwide.
When Shirley Baker began photographing the streets of her native Salford, it seemed that no-one was interested in recording the human story of these soon-to-be demolished communities: old ladies sitting on doorsteps in a row of condemned houses, men with handcarts searching for refuse to be recycled, children playing amongst rubble and abandoned cars. That she chose to preserve these moments on photographic film seems now like the only perceptive response to a fast vanishing environment.
Shirley's work is perfect for editorial and creative purposes, offering humour, social history and the innocence and joy of youth set against a backdrop of a rapidly changing inner city world.