Contemporary Commissions Collection
NEW! A selection of commissioned works is available to view on our Flickr photostream.
In 1985 the Documentary Photography Archive (DPA) began to build from scratch a collection of contemporary documentary photography. From the beginning the Documentary Photography Archive's interest centred on the interpretation of the photograph as a primary source in historical research.
Our photographers were appointed for the quality of their interpretation. They are encouraged in their photographs to comment on the subject, to invite comparison, to invoke emotion, to influence response. The very best of their work is very powerful communicating directly without the need for words. As such their images can exert a profound influence both on the contemporary and the future critic.
Though the creative photographer strives to produce pictures which require no words to define or explain, images alone can rarely suffice as primary sources for historical analysis. The historian needs factual information both about subject content and the photographer's intentions in order to interpret the subtleties of the photograph. For this reason we asked commissioned photographers to provide a written record which serves to contextualise their images and aid our understanding.
The vast majority of the images have been catalogued, and these catalogues are searchable on our Pastfinder catalogue. You can enter GB124.DPA in the 'reference number field' and your search term (eg. Tom Wood or Martin Parr) in the 'any text field'.
If you find descriptions of images that you are interested in, please make an appointment to view the items at the Greater Manchester County Record Office by emailing email@example.com.
In total, some thirteen commissions were produced between 1985 and 2000, creating a body of work which will speak to generations to come. A full list of the commissions is given below:
C1. Martin Parr. Retailing in the Borough of Salford (1985)
1514 colour negatives; 156 black & white work prints; exhibition prints
Explored the range of retail outlet from corner shop to hypermarket and included home sales such as Avon and Sarah Jane Lingerie.
C2. Marianne Morris. Children in the Eighties: Adults of the 21st Century
793 black & white negatives; 190 work prints
Studies of seven individual children from a variety of different backgrounds including urban and rural, black and white. Two of the children attended Chethams School of Music.
C3. Clement Cooper. Afro Caribbean Youth in Moss Side
691 black & white negatives; 33 work prints
C4. Shirley Baker. Manchester International Airport: A Typical Day
(1987) A one-day photographic commission
547 black & white negatives; 38 colour negatives; 72 black & white work prints; 12 colour work prints
Experience of the airport from a passenger perspective including the queues and the long waits. Featured in Granada T.V.'s Celebration series, broadcast 23 October 1987.
C5. Ged Murray. Old Trafford: Off the Field of Play
(1987) A one day photographic commission
381 black & white negatives; 20 work prints
Set in the cricket ground of Lancashire County Cricket Club, this commission ignores the field of play and concentrates instead on the staff who work behind the scenes - the people who run the various refreshment and catering facilities, the ground staff who maintain the pitch, the people operating the scoreboard and the various attendants in the seating areas.
C6. Clement Cooper. The church, Robin Hood pub and youth in Moss Side for the exhibition and publication (1987)
507 black & white negatives; 10 work prints
C7. Brian Lomas. The Passage of Time: The Hand of Man
682 black & white negatives; 55 work prints
The decaying market gardens and allotments on Ashton Moss which had once provided fresh food for the city of Manchester and its satellite towns.
C8. Shirley Baker. Photographer at Work
812 black & white negatives (including one roll of colour film); 118 work prints; 21 colour en prints
Undertaken in the 150th anniversary year of birth of photography this project attempted to put the photographer in the picture by focusing on different types of photographic activity including commercial advertising, portraiture and police work.
C9. Paul Reas. Tourism in the North West
506 colour negatives; 29 work prints
A look at the heritage industry in some sites in the North West including the Albert Dock and Quarry Bank Mill.
C10. Tom Wood. Care in the Community
Approx. 3000 35 mm colour negatives; 60 colour work prints; hundreds of en prints
Based in Rainhill Psychiatric Hospital on Merseyside prior to the evacuation of patients into the community and its sale for building and development. This commission was undertaken in collaboration with Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool.
C11. John McDonald. The Bolton Commission: Worktown Revisited
1599 black & white negatives; prints
A look at aspects of life in Bolton some fifty years after its adoption as Worktown by Mass Observation.
C12. Tom Wood. Cammell Lairds, Birkenhead
760 medium format colour negatives; work prints
An attempt to find new ways of portraying people at work this focusses on one ship being refitted.