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    A Practice-Led Investigation into the Role of the Photobook in Representing the British Working Classes Since 1975

    White, Ruth (2018) A Practice-Led Investigation into the Role of the Photobook in Representing the British Working Classes Since 1975. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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    Driven by my working-class upbringing during the Thatcher period and a desire to communicate something about the ‘psychic landscape’ (Diane Reay, 2005) and ‘hidden injuries’ (Sennett and Cobb, 1972) of class, the aim of this research is to demonstrate how photobook practice can be used as a method for investigating the lived experience of class. It further aims to highlight the important role that photobooks have played in documenting and contributing to our understanding of the impact of Thatcherism upon working-class lives. Thatcherism marks a period of significant socio-economic upheaval and change in Britain which has had a profound effect on the life trajectories of the British working-classes. Many of the changes brought about and accelerated by Thatcherism can be seen within a small number of photobooks produced within the period. Yet, a comprehensive account of the significant contribution these photobooks have made to our understanding of the lived experience of class within the Thatcher period has not yet been written, therefore, this research fills this gap. The research is practice-led and inter-disciplinary, culminating in the production of a collection of eight photo zines about the main areas of working-class life: family, relationships, work, leisure and to a lesser extent – formal politics. The accompanying thesis draws upon a broad range of scholarship from across the arts and humanities. The thesis is divided into three related parts: Firstly, in order to understand who the British working-classes are and to get a sense of working class identity at this particular historical juncture, the history of British class analysis, as mapped out by Mike Savage in The Fall and Rise of Class Analysis in British Sociology, 1950-2016 (2016), is examined. This is followed by an exploration of Thatcherism and its socio-economic impact on Britain and the life trajectories and lived experience of the British working-classes. Secondly, in order to understand how Thatcherism and the lived experience of class has been represented by the photobook, a collection of seven British photobooks are critically analysed and the influence of these books on the photo zine practice is discussed. Finally, the photo zine practice and what it reveals about the lived experience of class is critically analysed through discussions of both the production process and a content analysis of individual photo zines.

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