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Women from half a lifetime ago come forward to reveal what it was like to be a “Visible Girl” as new exhibition opens in London

First Women

(Metro Front of House Gallery, Great Sutton Street, London EC1V 0NB 14th April – 27th May 2016)

A fascinating collection of portraits from the early ‘eighties, Visible Girls from premier photographer Anita Corbin depicts pairs of young women from 35 years ago. The new exhibition in a London gallery has helped to prompt a nationwide search to find the women, now in their fifties, to see what’s become of them. So far around half the women have been found and each has a fascinating story to tell.

The “Visible Girls” from 2016 range from a well-known psychic TV personality to an experimental film-maker, and include the daughter of a famous journalist, a novelist and food blogger and unsurprisingly several founders of various creative businesses. Amongst the successes there has also been sorrow with at least two Visible Girls who are dead and some have scattered to the four corners of the Globe, settling in East and West coast USA, Australia, rural France, Scotland and Slovenia.

Somerset-based photographer Anita Corbin took the series of photos in London in the early 1980s because she wanted to study girls in subcultures and as a young “soft punk” herself wanted to capture the blossoming of young women’s identity and their freedom to be who they wanted to be. The “Visible Girls” collection now forms part of the documentary section of Anita’s latest project, First Women*, which will be unveiled in 2018 and looks at how women will be remembered over the past 100 years.

Anita explains, “We have made contact with approximately 50% of the original girls, largely through social media and online media and are still looking for the rest of course! It’s come to light that at least two have passed away, but i have contact with their children and friends and hope to include them in the reshoot.”

“The collection is a series of double portraits looking at girls in subcultures and includes eight never-before-seen double portraits from the original series. Female subjects for the series included rude girls, rockabillies, mods, skinheads, and some “less defined” female groups including soul, Rasta, punk and futurist, as well as those involved “in and around the women’s liberation movement.” Anita discovered that for these young women belonging to a subculture was not just a weekend hobby, but a way of life.

Herself a young ‘soft punk’ photographer in 1980’s London, Anita was drawn to the unique styles of the women around her. In the 1981 introduction to her work she wrote: "I have chosen to focus on girls, not because the boys (where present) were any less stylish but because girls in ‘subcultures’ have been largely ignored or when referred to, only as male appendages.”

Thirty five years ago Anita’s photographs were part of a travelling exhibition organized by the Cockpit Gallery Project and then Camerawork until 2004 - but they have never been seen altogether at a London exhibition. The eye-catching collection of portraits serves as a study of how young women in subcultures showcased their identity as individuals, and as part of youth tribes.

Anita says, “The 80s saw the unveiling of subcultures that embraced more women orientated women. In some cases these groups adopted an androgynous style of dressing which was unusual at that time – a certain blurring of gender which has now become much more mainstream 35 years later.”

Anita has a long-standing relationship with Metro Imaging whose Gallery will house the first solo show. Anita worked with Metro when she was a photographic journalist based in London and a freelancer for the Sunday Times and several other national newspapers.

Kate O’Neill from Metro Imaging commented, “Metro Imaging has been championing Anita’s work for a number of years, culminating in a curated exhibition that reveals many unseen and original images from the clubs and streets of London.” The exhibition includes a mixture of framed C type and vinyl prints alongside original contact sheet and prints from the 80s.

Anita hopes the exhibition, the first of four featuring “Visible Girls,” may serve to stimulate people’s memories with a view to “revisiting” their lives 35 years later for a follow-up show in 2017. http://1stwomenuk.co.uk/2016/01/06/visible-girls-revisited/

Notes to Editors

*First Women First Women is photographer Anita Corbin’s legacy of inspirational photographs of ordinary women in the 21st century who have achieved extraordinary things. Due to launch in 2018 to mark 100 years of Women’s Suffrage, Anita is creating and curating 100 iconic portraits of 21st century women who have achieved the landmark title “First Woman” across a range of fields. Her vision is to provide answers to important questions that will be posed at that historic juncture: “How will women be remembered over the past 100 years?” “What have women achieved in the fields of Sport, Science, Politics, the Arts and Education?” “Who were these remarkable “first” women”?

Find out more about First Women


Release Date: 18th April 2016

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