By Katy Cowan

A new exhibition at London’s Barbican explores life in Britain as seen through the eyes of international photographers, capturing its changing social, cultural and political identity since the 1930s.

Curated by iconic British photographer Martin Parr, Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers includes everything from social documentary and street photography, to portraiture and architectural photography by some of the leading lights of 20th and 21st century photography.

Each of the featured photographers record different characteristics of life around Britain in their own distinctive style. Starting in the mid-1930s with Edith Tudor-Hart’s images of London’s East End to the slum housing areas of Tyneside that capture the child welfare, unemployment and homelessness that characterised the interwar years. Henri Cartier-Bresson’s pictures capture the celebratory spirit at the Coronation of King George VI in 1937 – photographing the crowds lining the streets. The work of Gian Butturini and Frank Habicht show the euphoria of the Swinging Sixties and the anti-War movement, while Robert Frank’s portrayal of life in London alongside the coal mining towns of South Wales in the early 1950s charts the rise of a British corporate culture and brings into sharp relief the relationship between wealth and poverty.

Described as a ‘chronicler of our age’, Martin Parr has been a critical figure in British photography for the last three decades. Renowned for his oblique approach to social documentary, his colour photographs touch on themes of leisure, consumption and communication all infused with humour and wit. Speaking of the exhibition, he said: “It will reveal a very different take on British life than that produced by British photographers. It is both familiar and strange at the same time.”

Main image credit: Glasgow in 1980 – © Raymond Depardon / Magnum Photos

Hans van der Meer - Mytholmroyd, England, 2004 © Hans van der Meer / Courtesy of the Artist

Hans van der Meer – Mytholmroyd, England, 2004 © Hans van der Meer / Courtesy of the Artist

Cas Oorthuys - London, 1953 © Cas Oorthuys / Nederlands Fotomuseum

Cas Oorthuys – London, 1953 © Cas Oorthuys / Nederlands Fotomuseum

Installation view - © Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

Installation view – © Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

Photographer Raymond Depardon with his work - Barbican Art Gallery, London - © Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

Photographer Raymond Depardon with his work – Barbican Art Gallery, London – © Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

Akihiko Okamura - Northern Ireland, 1970s © Akihiko Okamura / Courtesy of the Estate of Akihiko Okamura, Hakodate, Japan

Akihiko Okamura – Northern Ireland, 1970s © Akihiko Okamura / Courtesy of the Estate of Akihiko Okamura, Hakodate, Japan

Edith Tudor-Hart - Gee Street, Finsbury, London, ca. 1936 © Edith Tudor-Hart / National Galleries of Scotland

Edith Tudor-Hart – Gee Street, Finsbury, London, ca. 1936 © Edith Tudor-Hart / National Galleries of Scotland

Photographer Frank Habicht with his work - © Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

Photographer Frank Habicht with his work – © Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

© Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

© Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

© Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

© Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

Tina Barney - The Red Sheath, 2001 © Tina Barney, Courtesy of Paul Kasmin Gallery

Tina Barney – The Red Sheath, 2001 © Tina Barney, Courtesy of Paul Kasmin Gallery

Henri Cartier-Bresson - Coronation of King George VI, Trafalgar Square, London, 12 May 1937 © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

Henri Cartier-Bresson – Coronation of King George VI, Trafalgar Square, London, 12 May 1937 © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

© Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

© Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

© Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

© Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

Candida Höfer - Liverpool IX, 1968 © Candida Höfer, Köln; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015

Candida Höfer – Liverpool IX, 1968 © Candida Höfer, Köln; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015

Sergio Larrain - London. Baker Street underground station. 1958-1959. © Sergio Larrain / Magnum Photos

Sergio Larrain – London. Baker Street underground station. 1958-1959. © Sergio Larrain / Magnum Photos

Martin Parr - © Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

Martin Parr – © Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

© Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

© Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

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