Sefton Samuels has been wandering the cobbled streets of the North of England, camera in hand, for over 60 years now. He’s photographed dark satanic mills, seaside charabancs, all-in wrestling, miners, gurners, tripe dressers, black pudding makers, clog fixers and certified cloth cap celebrities such as Brian Clough, Arthur Scargill, Alan Bennett, Bernard Manning, Morrissey and Big Daddy. It’s doubtful there has ever been a photographer as skilled at capturing so superbly the ordinary life of ordinary folk on either side of the Pennines. He’s been called ‘the photographic equivalent of Ken Loach’ and no less an artistic legend than L.S. Lowry declared him his favourite photographer.
Amazing pictures of all of the above and so much more have now been compiled into ‘Northerners: Portrait of a no-nonsense people’, a collection of 200-odd of the most honest, beautiful, extraordinary photographs you’re likely to see on the subject of post-war working class life in Lancashire, Yorkshire and around. Most of the images centre around Samuels home town of Manchester in the 60s and it’s easy to claim that many of those portrayed are ‘ee-by-gum, nowt-as-queer-as-folk, grim-up-north, trouble-at-mill, can-you-ride-tandem?’ stereotypes, but in reality these uncompromising images encapsulate the truth upon which the caricature was built.
Anyone 40 or over and from the North will recognise at least fragments of their heritage in these images - whether in the wallpaper of the working men’s clubs or the hoardings round the pitch at the footy.
Anyone 40 or over and from the North will recognise at least fragments of their heritage in these images - whether in the wallpaper of the working men’s clubs or the hoardings round the pitch at the footy - you’ll also see stand-ins for your parents, uncles and aunts captured in the environments where they were raised. But you don’t have to have been brought up along the M62 corridor to know that these pictures also represent a rapidly vanishing past, showing the fag end of a time when lifestyles and communities forged in the industrial revolution and defined during the depression and world wars were slowly being dismantled ready for the unromantic urban regeneration of the 21st century. Though from an era so recently lived, this world is all but gone and these images are a worthy record.
Sefton Samuels is 80 this year. Even though the North he’s so beautifully documented has pretty much disappeared he’s still healthy, still living in Manchester and still taking pictures. It’s good to know some things don’t change.
Click here for more stories about Life
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook