This is one of those books that show the power of photography to convey events, moods and historical events.
Sheffield in the 1980s: Featuring Images of Sheffield Photographer, Martin Jenkinson (Images of the Past) by Mark Metcalf, Justine Jenkinson
The social, industrial and economic changes imposed on the Sheffield area during the 1980s are captured with remarkable clarity in this second Images of the Past book featuring the work of freelance photographer Martin Jenkinson (1947-2012). The former steelworker and adopted Sheffielder’s knowledge of his fellow citizens’ lives gave him a unique understanding, which he used to capture some incredible images of those troubled times.
In Sheffield in the 1980s the reader will find themselves drawn into remembering a decade of remarkable changes, some good but many for the worse. It was something that many northern England and Scottish cities experienced during this period, while at the same time, parts of south east England, especially the City of London, boomed. The gap between north and south became a chasm.
Jenkinson, who constantly sought ways to improve his skills, photographed people in their everyday lives at work and at play. However, where he excelled was his work with the trade union and labor movement in workplaces, on protests, demonstrations and pickets. His photographs in such situations create a political awareness that fills the page and forces the observer to seek to find out more.
So whilst some of the images in this book capture joy and laughter they also exhibit suffering. They provide a loud cry for social justice, a better world where unemployment is no more, poverty is swept away and everyone, black and white, male and female can enjoy a life where their talents are used for the collective improvement of all. Jenkinson’s photographs are about a world we still must aim to obtain.
About the author:
About Justine Jenkinson
Justine Jenkinson, Martin Jenkinson’s daughter, gave up her job as a HR personal assistant in the Civil Service in 2015 to run her father’s image library full time. This was to enable her to keep his legacy alive by continuing to contribute his images to publications and exhibitions. Justine is exploring her father’s archives to find images that haven’t been widely seen before, which will then be added to the Martin Jenkinson Image Library website. Twitter: @MJImageLibrary
About Mark Metcalf
Mark Metcalf is a freelance writer with a passion for football. His recent work includes the highly successful book Flying Over an Olive Grove: The Remarkable Story of Fred Spiksley, a flawed football hero and which is now being incorporated into a documentary film, set for release in 2020, on the early years of football. Mark is a regular contributor to the Big Issue North magazine and the various publications of Unite the union and for whom he has written a series of booklets on trade union greats such as Benny Rothman and Mohammad Taj.
About Martin Jenkinson
Martin Jenkinson was the official Yorkshire National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) area photographer during the period that included the miners’ strike of 1984/85. In addition to his NUM work, Martin was also commissioned by many other unions, notably the National Union of Teachers and the TGWU/Unite. A former steelworker, Martin combined his politics and belief in workers’ rights, equality and social justice with his passion for photography. He died of cancer aged 64 in June 2012.
I thank Rosie Croft from Pen & Sword for providing me an early paperback copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.
I worked in Sheffield and lived in the area for almost 10 years and had visited it on occasions as well before that, and although it was long after the 1980s (I arrived in the UK in the early 90s), I was familiar with Martin Jenkinson’s work, had seen some of his iconic photographs of the period, and could not resist the opportunity to sample some more. This was a particularly interesting and intense period in the history of the city, with the closures of many steel and cutlery manufacturing companies, the pit closures in the region, and with many strikes and much social unrest, that Jenkinson recorded in his work. It is impossible to look at his pictures and not wonder about recent events.
This book combines a great selection of images from the period with some background text, that rather than providing lengthy explanations about each image, is organised as an introductory write-up for each one of the sections. Although there isn’t much writing, the brief summaries offer a good overview to people who might not be familiar with the historic-social circumstances of the era and provide a solid context for the fantastic images.
The book is clearly a labour of love from Jenkinson’s daughter, and it includes a foreword by Helen Hague, a reporter who has worked at a number of local and national newspapers and was a personal friend of the photographer, a Tribute, written by Chris Searle, summarising Jenkinson’s career, and a number of sections that help organise the photographic content: Who We Are Exhibition (that was an exhibition at Sheffield’s Weston Park Museum of Jenkinson’s work, which run from November 2018 to April 2019), Steel (that includes images of strikes, a section on cutlery and silver, one on retail and the public section [including images of women taking up various jobs that were still an uncommon sight at the time], one on rail freight), Local Government (National and Local Government Officer’s Association [look out for David Blankett], SYCC and fare cuts [about increases to the public transport fares, hotly contested], the Manpower Services Commission [a new programme to fight unemployment, also hotly contested], Campaigns and Protests (People’s March for Jobs, Cutler’s Feast [where Margaret Thatcher was not particularly welcomed, but she went nonetheless], The Miner’s Strike [this is one of my favourite sections and many of Jenkinson’s iconic photographs are featured here], Eversure [a wonderful picture of a wedding couple visiting a picket at the factory where they both work], the National Abortion Campaign, Sheffield Campaign for Access to Moorland, Sheffield Campaign Against Racism and Anti-Apartheid, Anti-Nuclear Protests, Sheffield Street Band), Sheffield & Its People (another great section including some pictures of Hillsborough Football Stadium that are impossible to look at without thinking about the later tragedy), a section referring to The Martin Jenkinson Image Library, and a final section of Acknowledgements.
This is not a nostalgic book about the Sheffield of the 1980s, although there are pictures of some very recognisable landmarks, but rather a book about certain aspects of the period and its people, and they show the concerns and interests of a man who had worked in the steel industry and suffered in his own flesh the changes brought by its demise. It’s not a book of pretty pictures, although there are some beautiful images, but that is not the aim. They are pictures that tell a story, and not always a nice one. As Helen Hague says in the foreword: ‘Martin Jenkinson had a gift for capturing the moment.’
The book is packed with black and white pictures chronicling a city and its people in an era of major political, social, and economic changes, and anybody interested in the 1980s in the UK will find plenty to enjoy and to make them think in this book. I know many writers find inspiration in images, and here they will have a field day. In case you want to get an idea of what type of images you might find in the book, you can check the Martin Jenkinson Image Library(here).
A fabulous book for lovers of photography with a social conscience, and for anybody interested in the recent history of Sheffield and of the UK in general.
Thanks to Rosie Croft and the team of Pen & Sword, thanks to the authors (and to Martin Jenkinson) for their great work, thanks to all of you for writing, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!