A stop off in Paris on my way back to the Dordogne, South West France following my trip to London provided an opportunity to catch Burberry’s exhibition “Here We Are,” featuring the “British Way of Life.”
Visiting the Republique district of Paris for ten days after London and Hong Kong, the exhibition was held in the former premises of the newspaper “Liberation.” The exhibition, occupying three levels of the premises features works by over 30 major British photographers including Janette Beckman, Jane Bown, Brian Griffin, Dafydd Jones, Karen Knorr, Martin Parr, Charlie Phillips, Andy Sewell and Jo Spence.
The collection was co-curated by Lucy Kumara Moore, director of the London fashion and photography bookstore Claire de Rouen Books, Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s chief creative officer and photographer Alasdair McLellan.
The photographs offer a nostalgic look at British documentary photography which even today continue to inspire Bailey and his designs for the Burberry brand. Although Moore explains “What you see in the photographs is not really the way Britain is anymore.” The photographs document British style and society between World War II and 1986.
Alongside more recent photos of Burberry ad campaigns, the historical images show iconic British looks from various eras: working-class laborers wearing plaid jackets, equestrian riders in red jackets and tall boots, soldiers in uniforms, punk kids in suspenders, and socialites in gowns at decadent parties. The photographs begin in 1955 with a Teddy Girl an Edwardian-dressed rebel member of the 1950s girl gang the Teddy Girls, and end in 1986, with raucous scenes of a London nightclub shot by the street photographer Tom Wood. Moore says these years in particular are telling of postwar progress in Britain: They span the end of rationing, and the launch of the first mass-market home computer package.
The bare concrete walls and unfinished open space proved a perfect backdrop for the more urban photographs in the exhibition. The more colourful photos, particular those of soldiers in their dress uniforms were less at home against the grey background of the concrete walls. Burberrys own fashion display spanning the period of the exhibition had its own vibrant story to tell.
The exhibition, in addition to the photographs and fashion featured film reels of the occupants of a London tenement providing their very different accounts of how they spent their post war black and white days.
After wandering through the exhibition, it was up to the roof top terrace for some champagne and canapes. Even with grey cloud filled skies and a chilly wind there was no denying the views of the Sacre Coeur and Eiffel Tower were spectacular. Thank you Burberry.