31st May 2008 – 19th July 2008
The project began in 1971, when Smith was sixteen years old and continued into the mid 1970s, developing into an extensive body of work documenting the communities that had grown up around the huge iron and steel works of the region. Among the pubs, clubs and streets Smith found often difficult working lives and hardship, but also rich expressions of solidarity, compassion and a stoical sense of humour. As an insider to these communities, whose family had worked and lived in Thornaby since the early 1900s, Smith was well placed to portray them without sentimentality or judgment but with dignity, curiosity and respect.
Today, following de-industrialisation of the region, many of these once thriving working class communities have been lost from the national map and have been forgotten.
In this light, Smith’s recently rediscovered negatives provide a fascinating and thought-provoking insight into the culture and living conditions of a section of the North East in the 1970s. Many of the images are being shown for the first time in this exhibition.