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Who We Are: Photographs by Martin Jenkinson

by Now Then Sheffield
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First National Women's Support Groups Rally, Civic Hall, Barnsley, 12.05.1984. Photo by Martin Jenkinson.

Who We Are is a retrospective of the works of photojournalist Martin Jenkinson at Weston Park Museum. Jenkinson died of cancer in 2012 at the age of 64, but prior to that spent four decades chronicling the drama of the everyday lives of people in the North of England.

Particularly well-known is his work made during the 1980s, when tens of thousands of steelworkers suddenly found themselves unemployed and the cities of the North underwent a drastic transformation, Jenkinson portrayed people's lives in spite of modernism, in spite of redevelopment plans, living alongside futuristic, almost alien new architectures.

His photographs during miners' protests made front pages at the time, but they still resonate due to the way he brought his subjects to life. Similarly, this exhibition brings Jenkinson himself to life as an array of press badges, contact sheets and a life-size mock-up of his studio join the collection of 80 photos, mostly black and white.

In [Jenkinson's] images there is a shared humanity

Jenkinson was an eye amongst the people. He documented the character of his people, their willingness to keep going despite the demolition that surrounded them. He made sure to always capture the affection of his subjects and the empathy in the conflicts. In his images there is a shared humanity between police and protesters. There isn't anger in the despair, but hope for rebirth.

He is part of his subjects. We can picture him holding a 'COAL NOT DOLE' sign with the same ease with which we can imagine him having a smoke with cutlery workers on a break. He probably chatted with most of the 1,500 people queueing to apply for 50 jobs at a new Sheffield restaurant and was in the first row during the People's March for Jobs.

But Jenkinson also took pride in documenting those events and signals of change that were beyond him, like in his 1983 portrait of Maxine Duffat, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport's first black female bus driver.

Jenkinson's work celebrates the northern soul and brings together generations connected by the same, though drastically changed, City of Steel.

Lisa Wehrstedt

Who We Are: Photographs by Martin Jenkinson runs at Weston Park Museum until 14 April.

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Maxine Duffus, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport's first black woman bus driver. Photo by Martin Jenkinson.
by Now Then Sheffield

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