New photography exhibition looks at Southend 50 years ago – Southend-on-Sea Borough Council

A new exhibition at the Beecroft Art Gallery features ‘Two Views of Southend’, a photographic snapshot of life in Southend in 1972, by Josef Koudelka and Ron McCormick.

McCormick and Koudelka’s project showcase will allow visitors to see ‘Two Views of Southend’ in its entirety for the first time in 50 years. These photographs provide a fascinating insight into life in Southend in 1972, with images that are as important today as they were 50 years ago.

In 1972, as part of a major project involving eight towns, the Arts Council commissioned McCormick and Koudelka to take candid photographs of people in Southend. The objective was to reveal to the inhabitants of the city how they and their environment are seen by two external observers.

Josef Koudelka took his first photographs as a student in Czechoslovakia in the 1950s and produced what would later become famous images of the Soviet invasion of Prague. Koudelka applied for political asylum in 1970 and joined Magnum Photos soon after. Koudelka has won a number of prestigious awards and major exhibitions of his work have taken place at institutions ranging from the Museum of Modern Art and the International Center of Photography in New York to the Hayward Gallery in London.

Ron McCormick studied painting at the Liverpool College of Art and undertook postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy Schools in London (1968-71) and published internationally for 50 years. McCormick worked as a feature photojournalist throughout the 1970s for various publishers, including Time Out, Design Magazine, and Socialist Worker Press. Exhibitions of his work have been presented at institutions ranging from the Serpentine Gallery to La Photo Galeria in Madrid.

Both photographers were inspired by the influence day trippers have had (and continue to have) on street and beach life in Southend. The photographs in the exhibition capture a literal snapshot of life in Southend with candid shots of people enjoying a day by the sea, as relevant to an audience today as they were in 1972.

Kevin Marsh, Assistant Curator of Art at Southend Museums, said: “We are delighted to share ‘Two Views’ in its original form. The images taken by Koudelka and McCormick are alive with the thrill and excitement of ‘a day by the sea and although 50 years have passed, these stunning photographs continue to show why Southend holds such a special place for the many visitors.’

Cllr Carole Mulroney, Cabinet Member for Culture, Tourism and the Environment, said: “I’m really looking forward to visiting this exhibit. We all love a bit of nostalgia and have our memories of Southend. So seeing in pictures all that has changed over the past 50 years and reflecting on the past will hopefully inspire where Southend can go from here. Tourism has helped shape our city and will continue to do so for the next 50 years and beyond. The development of a city is made up of past, present and future, and it is up to us to create.

To find out more about the exhibition and how to get there, visit the Southend Museums website.

Published: November 22, 2022

Tracey L. Sweeney