Jo Spence Collection

Scope and Content

A4 lever arch file donated by Jo Spence includes: 'Photography for Life exhibition' relating to her struggle for health as a cancer patient and how she used photography and alternative medicine to bring about necessary changes in her life. 'Body Talk' a dialogue between Ros Coward and Jo Spence (typed discussion). Feminist Review article 1985 'New Portraits for Old: The Use of the Camera in Therapy by Rosy Martin and Jo Spence. 'Family, Fantasy and Photography' a photographic exhibition by the Pollyshappers, 1981, synopsis. Typed discussions about her life and background. Text for the exhibition 'Beyond the Family Album', 1979. Article by Jo Spence 'What do people do all day? Class and gender in images of women'. Hanging file: Typed copy of an interview with Jo Spence, 1992. Copies of exhibition flyers, articles and press cuttings. Press release 'Jo Spence review of work 1950-1985' (touring exhibition). List of her biographical notes, books and articles. Typed interview with Jo Spence and Kim Kirby, 1991. Article 'Reworking the family album' from Media Education, Spring 1990. 10 copies of Jo Spence photographs that had appeared in Journals. 50 slides: copies of 50 of Jo Spence's photographs.

Administrative / Biographical History

Jo Spence was born in London on 15 June 1934. She was a writer, photo therapist and cultural worker. From 1967-1974 she ran a successful portrait and wedding studio in London. After becoming more politicised she abandoned commercial work and became a documentary , then agitprop photographer, beginning to work with others (principally Terry Dennett) on a collaborative or cooperative basis. In 1974 she set up Photography Workshop which later combined its programme with the Half Moon Gallery to form the Half Moon Photography Workshop which published the innovative photographic magazine 'Camerawork'. Jo also helped form the Hackney Flashers Collective, a socialist feminist documentary group working on issues of wages, class and childcare in the inner city. To support herself financially she worked as a secretary in the Education Department of the British Film Institute. In 1979 she enrolled at the Polytechnic of Central London on a full time degree course where she trained with photo theorist Victor Burgin. Her degree totally changed her previous ways of working and thinking about photography, she no longer continued in the reporter/voyeur of traditional photographic practice. In 1982 she was diagnosed with cancer. From this time her work focused on identity and subjectivity, mental and physical health. She also trained as an art therapist, and started to integrate this with her photographic knowledge. Jo Spence died in 1992.

Access Information

Access for visitors is by appointment only.

Other Finding Aids

List available at the Library (database)

Archivist's Note

Description by Althea Greenan, MAKE 2002. Submitted to the Archives Hub as part of Genesis 2009 Project.

Geographical Names