During the summer of 1976, Iain McKell, a budding photographer and art student at Exeter Art college acquired a job on Weymouth’s seafront photographing the passers-by. “It was the hottest summer since records began,” recalls Iain, “only beaten by last year’s heatwave.” Along with thoughts of “girls girls girls”, he remembers that summer for its fun-filled characters along Weymouth beach which provided the young photographer with a wealth of subjects for his emerging practice.
43 years later, Iain is revisiting this set of photos for a new book titled Private Reality. Currently in the process of raising funds for the book’s publication, this glimpse into Weymouth’s history sees fabulous hairdos, Bowie-inspired youngsters, walrus moustaches and denim jackets galore. Though taken back at a very different time, many of these photographed subjects wouldn’t go amiss in Dalston or Brixton today. As it turns out, the trendy hipster hasn’t really changed that much from the 70s in Weymouth.
For Iain however, he hopes that the younger generations will view this series and engage with the pre-digital freedom that his generation experienced. “Everyone now is making love to their phones and not to each other,” Iain tells It’s Nice That. “We did it in the real world and had to be patient and let things just happen naturally. I hope that younger audiences will look at these photos and get the vibe that life looked a bit crazy, a bit violent, but also a lot of fun! After all, we had David Bowie and Stanley Kubrick showing us the way, what more could you want?”
The series of photos act as a visual diary for the then 19-year-old preoccupied with existential angst and sex. Despite the fact that he was still a student at the beginnings of his career, he recalls how photography was a way to “express myself and my world through consciousness because that’s all that really existed”. For Iain, the medium of photography was, and still is, a way to “invest in the human condition”.
After graduating, Iain hit the streets of London with his portfolio in hand, going onto produce a number of photo books, not to mention shoot Madonna’s first magazine cover for her then-hit Holiday in 1983. Along with several other adventures including marriage, divorce and fatherhood, Iain also remarkably “ran off with Gypsies and Kate Moss”, eventually settling down in east London where he presently resides. Currently working on a photography series about a sisterhood living in a warehouse in Tottenham, Iain is also hoping to raise the complete funds for Private Reality which you can also support here.
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