Collection of the week: Henry Grant

With that back-to-school feeling still in the air, it seems appropriate to feature the work of photographer Henry Grant (1907-2004) before September is out. His superb photographs, which we have represented for over twenty years, provide a unique and evocative documentation of social life in Britain from the 1950s to the 1970s, and most strongly focus on education around the country, from pre-school nurseries to colleges and universities including Oxbridge and the new cluster of modern universities opening up around this time. Included are once familiar school experiences such as a break for a bottle of milk mid-morning or a visit from the nit nurse, alongside some wonderful classroom and playground images achieved by Grant, who would discreetly take photographs with a lightweight and silent Leica 35mm camera, managing to sensitively achieve candid, 'fly-on-the-wall' images without disturbing students.

Elsewhere, the material recognises many other aspects of British life in those post-war decades of significant economic and social change. His photography embraces both town and countryside showing people and places of great diversity; from sheep shearing in Wales or textile mills in Lancashire to modern Coventry shopping precincts or atmospheric rows of terraced housing in Liverpool. Henry Grant's recording of the ordinary and everyday seems prescient, and when he was the subject of a 1990 exhibition at the Museum of London he remarked , 'I'm getting on a bit, so it does please me that this material will be available for future generations.' A browse through some of the highlights from his 700+ images we have online, is not only a nostalgic journey, but confirms him as a significant name among the twentieth century's great documentary photographers.

Mary Evans Picture Library Ltd.  59 Tranquil Vale  Blackheath  London  SE3 0BS. United Kingdom.
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