London Gallery West is delighted to present an exhibition of early photographs by Gavin Watson. Previously unseen, these images were taken by Watson as an adolescent and shed light on the genesis of his photographic career. Today millions of domestic images are taken and circulated daily via social networking sites such as Facebook. In the 1970’s, however, it took substantially more commitment and verve to set about documenting your life through photography.
In 1978, aged just thirteen and armed with his first camera, Watson began to chronicle the lives of his friends and family in the London suburbs. These images can be considered as precursors to the camera phone pictures taken by adolescents today. They are concerned with capturing the euphoric and sometimes melancholic and alienating reality of adolescence through a small but perfectly formed miniature camera - the Hanimex 110.
These images are not situated within a traditional documentary photographic tradition, but belong to the ‘do it yourself’ culture of the punk movement. We have blown up these images beyond what is considered the acceptable quality level of the tiny 16mm 110 camera on which they were shot: firstly, to remove them from the 'snapshot' context and, secondly, to challenge notions of photographic quality and resolution increasingly prevalent in today's digital culture. What we see at this scale, along with the content and characters, is the trace of time, the matrix of colour film grain and the anthropological detail of life in 1970's Britain.
These photographs constitute the first stage of Watson’s documentation of youth culture, which continues with his iconic images of punks and skins, raves, and the music scene. Shot with the intimacy of the insider, these early images, seen here for the first time, demonstrate the same instinctual eye for composition and ability to seize the moment that characterises Watson’s later documentary work.
Gavin Watson is an acclaimed documentary and portrait photographer. His work has been exhibited internationally and he is a regular contributor to fashion, style and music magazines including Vice and Artrocker. His books include Skins, described the by The Times as “a modern classic”, Skins & Punks — Lost Archives 1978-1985, and Raving 89.