CCCS Mendelsohn

During the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS), Janet Mendelsohn generously donated an archive of 3000 photographs that she had taken as part of her studies at the Centre in the late 1960s. This AHRC funded project examined the significance of these images and brought them to local, national and international audiences. 

Working closely with members of the community, Janet Mendelsohn documented the neighbourhoods of Balsall Heath, an inner-city district of Birmingham, in the midst of controversy over housing conditions, traveller camps and the sex industry. Mendelsohn’s pictures focus on the everyday humanity of the people and places that she photographed, teasing out stories that would often be ignored or distorted by media coverage.

A selection of Mendelsohn’s photographs were exhibited, many for the first time, in Ikon's major exhibition Varna Road (Ikon Gallery, 27 January — 3 April 2016). The exhibition focused in particular on a young woman referred to as Kathleen, with whom Mendelsohn formed a close relationship. Kathleen subsequently came to the exhibition and objected to the way she was represented by Mendelsohn. You can read her statement here.

In January 2016, a symposium entitiled The Social Eye of Janet Mendelsohn invited a line-up of leading academics, artists and professionals to explore the significance of Mendelsohn's photographs. A wider project reflected on Mendelsohn's photographs of Balsall Heath within the local community. This included Ghost Streets of Balsall Heath, a temporary exhibition presented by Flatpack Festival, community photography workshops by photography organisation Some Cities and as well as a new photographic commission to be donated to the Cabdury Research Library. 

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