Signs Of Our Times

October 2005

Year 11 students from Falmer High School worked with Brighton based photographer and artist Greg Daville, to create Signs of Our Times, an exciting artist-led education project.

For this project, Greg and the group drew inspiration from the work of Euan Duff (on show at the Gardner Art Centre during October 2005 as part of the exhibition Archives From The New British Photography of the 70s), as well as the Mass-Observation Archive, a collection of personal diaries, questionnaire replies, photographs (including work by Duff), reports and survey papers that describe the everyday lives of people in Britain.

The students worked closely with Greg, visiting the exhibition and exploring the material at the Mass-Observation Archive. Back at school, Greg and the students considered aspects of everyday life themselves, and made observations about their immediate surroundings, and world events. The students then used personal ephemera and digital photography to create their own collection of work.

Following the exhibition, the students’ work became part of the distinguished collection of the Mass-Observation Archive.

An important aim of this project was to raise the profile of career opportunities in the creative industries. Greg talked to the group about his own practice; and two Editorial Photography undergraduates from the University of Brighton showed the school students their own work, talked about student life, and worked alongside Greg as project assistants.

The Falmer High School students’ photographs were exhibited in the foyer gallery at the Gardner Arts Centre. The ‘concertina books’ that reveal the thought processes that resulted in these photographs were displayed at the University of Sussex Library.

The Mass-Observation Archive results from the work of the social research organisation Mass-Observation, founded in 1937 by three young men who aimed to create an ‘anthropology of ourselves’. They recruited a team of observers and a panel of volunteer writers to study the everyday lives of ordinary people in Britain. The original work continued until the early 1950s, and the archive came to the University of Sussex in 1970. The current mass observation project started in 1981.

Archives From The New British Photography of the 70s at the Gardner Arts Centre is an exciting investigation into the central history of visual culture in the UK. The exhibition examined key archives of 1970s photography, ranging from Euan Duff’s pioneering work in five parts How We Are (drawn from the Mass-Observation Archive at the University of Sussex), to Peter Mitchell’s early colour documentary in Yorkshire.