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'Globetrotter' - Ian Berry & 'Words and Pictures' at The Latent Image

In January 2024, we will be launching 'Words and Pictures'. Hosted by TLI's Matthew Whiteman and William Temple, this will be a series of Q&A sessions with leading photographers . And we are hugely excited to tell you that our first guest will be the legendary Ian Berry.

Ian has been a member of the illustrious MAGNUM photos agency since the 1960s and is still photographing all over the world.

Ian Berry by Edmond Terakopian / copyright E Terakoplan

With 'Words and Pictures' William Temple and I will be talking to Ian about his life and work and looking at examples of his finest images - screened in the eighty seat cinema at The Old Market Hall in Shrewsbury.

This unique venue is just a stones throw from the TLI offices. Following the Q&A, we will invite questions from the audience - to be followed by lunch in the cinema restaurant and a book signing by Ian of his fabulous new book, 'Water'.

Ian Berry by Daniele Mattioli / copyright D Mattioli

-from 'Water' by Ian Berry

The photographs in 'Water' explore our relationship with our most precious resource - culturally, religiously - and what happens when there is too much or too little in an ever-changing world.

Ian says that it was never his intention to put together a political book but just to share his most memorable assignments - setting out to illustrate how our lives are affected by this most vital of resources.

For 'Water', Ian travelled the globe to photograph landscape and life ; detailing man’s complex relationship with water—at a time when climate change is demonstrating just how precarious is the balance between water, man and life on Earth.

‘I have gradually become aware through the years of my gathering images that something extraordinary was happening to our world—this year has shown above all others that the planet is struggling. There is too much water in some places, too little in others. Ice is melting at an unprecedented pace and it’s so very easy to dismiss what is happening when we see it briefly on TV and then it’s gone. I am concerned that our ecosystem is less than robust and if just a few people think of ways in which we can support it, I feel I can rest and let my work tell its tale.’

Ian Berry

Life as a photographer for Ian began in the early 1960s in South Africa - a country divided by Apartheid and troubled by violence.

The Sharpeville Massacre - photographed by Ian Berry: 'The police open fire and the crowd flees - the Police can be seen in the background standing on their armoured cars continuing to fire into the crowd as they run.'

On March 21, 1960, at a police station in the South African township of Sharpeville in Transvaal police opened fire on a crowd of protestors. The crowds had gathered to protest pass laws - a form of internal passport system designed to segregate the population during apartheid.

Berry was working for South African magazine Drum when his editor called him on his day off to suggest he went to the black township of Sharpeville...

'I walked into the crowd, who were all pressed up against the wire, and chatted with them; they were all friendly. Nothing was happening… I looked back at the police station – you know the final check that you always do before you leave – and the shooting started...

I thought at first that they were either firing blanks or they were firing over people’s heads to disperse them,' he said. 'It was only when a woman who was standing next to me fell on the ground that I realised they were actually shooting bullets.'

Ian Berry 'The crowd flee. A man turns over a woman lying on the ground to discover that she is dead...'

South African police had opened fire on the crowd, killing 69 people, with 289 casualties in total, including 29 children. Many of those injured sustained back injuries from being shot from behind as they tried to flee.

Ian's photographs were the only images of what had happened.

'From my point of view the only good thing that came out of this was that as the only non-police white guy to witness the people running away who were shot in the back, I was able to testify when they were charged with affray and it came to court. I was called to give evidence and as a white in those days in South Africa my word was taken as gospel. I was believed over the police. The police said initially that they’d only fired one burst, that the crowd had been aggressive – and certainly two minutes before the crowd had not been aggressive. Some of the pictures show the cops reloading and this proved that they had been shooting a lot longer than they alleged because of the time it took to shoot a magazine.'

Ian Berry

Today, in present-day South Africa, March 21 is celebrated as a public holiday to commemorate the Sharpeville massacre.

Ian's earlier book - 'The English' is another outstanding piece of work. Written in the 1970s, this is a very personal exploration of the British lifestyle. Ian was born and raised in the north of England, but after years in South Africa he was in an odd situation of being an Englishman who knew little about England. 'The English' reminds me of Robert Frank's classic 'The Americans'; here are two photographers - natives of their lands but offering us the unique perspective of outsiders...

Berry is a committed photojournalist. Here is his personal - and quite wonderful insight into the English.

The book - and the Leicas Ian used to shoot the story.

Photo credit: © WestLicht Photographica Auction

...And one of my favourite images from the book -

We will be announcing the date and ticket price for 'Words of Pictures' shortly.

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Very much looking forward to this.


Nov 04, 2023

Excited to hear about the Words & Photos project in collabs with OMH, I love Ian's photos and have a treasured copy of 'The English' and really look forward to the event and to see which other guest speakers you have planned for future events.