By Grant Scott for BBC
A new film, Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay, is about to premiere in Bristol. It explores the life of Bill Jay, one of the most influential figures in British photography. Grant Scott, lecturer and writer and one of the film’s editors and producers explains why Jay is such an important figure.
Image copyright David Hurn / Magnum Photos
Image caption Bill Jay with some students on one of his photographic workshopsTo suggest that Bill Jay was the spark that lit the fire beneath British photography in the late 1960s and helped form the idea of photography as contemporary practice in the 1970s is no exaggeration. His seminal lecture at Manchester Polytechnic in the autumn of 1971 certainly did that for the now established then student photographers Martin Parr, Daniel Meadows and Brian Griffin.
Jay’s promotion of the work of Tony Ray Jones, saving of the Francis Frith collection, creation of the Photo Study Centre at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London and involvement in creating the first photographic gallery – the Do Not Bend Gallery – among so many other initiatives cannot be easily dismissed when assessing the photographic landscape of 1970s Britain.
Bill Jay said of himself, in an editor’s letter in Creative Camera in 1969: “The fate of photography in this country is at stake. And that is more important than my opinions, or your opinions of me.”
The film, Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay, premieres at the Martin Parr Foundation on Friday, 20 April.
Further screenings with panel discussions featuring Grant Scott and Tim Pellatt will take place in collaboration with the Royal Photographic Society on 8 May at The Frontline Club and the Oriel Colwyn Gallery on 11 May, where an exhibition of Jay’s work will be on show until 30 June.
The Scottish premiere of the film will take place in collaboration with Stills, Edinburgh, Street Level, Glasgow and Edinburgh Napier University in September.
You can find out more about the film at www.donotbendfilm.com
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