By Paul Wright
As an official photographer for The Militant, David Sinclair captured many key social and political events through the 1980s and 1990s. If you’re familiar with his book ‘Liverpool in the 1980s’ you’ll be aware of his stunning captures of Liverpool during a time when the city rallied together in the face of adversity.
As a working press photographer David captured everything from citywide protests across Britain to intimate portraits of the people growing up in communities affected by political and social change.
David: “I left Alsop comprehensive school for boys in 1976, half way through my A levels. Disenchanted, I went to stack shelves with a couple of mates at Kwiksave on County Rd“.
“After three years working I returned to education and was enrolled in college studying interior design, then moving on to Liverpool College of Art, learning to draw under the brilliant Nicholas Horsefield“.
“Whilst studying I’d moved out of my family house into a ‘hard to let’ council flat in the rundown dock area of Liverpool 5. I was surrounded by derelict industrial buildings including Tate & Lyle sugar refiners, British American Tobacco, Bibby food processing and miles of abandoned dock buildings. I wanted to paint my environment so started taking photos as a sort of note taking and did make some colour landscape collages”.
“When I was introduced to black and white photography by a friend, I built my own darkroom. I started making prints with far more drama and humanity that I could get into a painting. I would spend many hours walking around Liverpool, exploring empty places like Council estates and going into derelict dock buildings, wandering the streets taking photos, mostly housing and post-industrial landscape – but it was in a time when kids would pester you to take their photo”.
“A fundamental difference between the time I took these photos and today is the general attitude towards photographing children. Back then there was little, or no paranoia compared to now. Kids on the street would run up to me asking if I was from the Echo. I’d say no, but they’d insist I’d have to take a group shot, and I did so they’d leave me alone. Some of these shots are now my favourite photos and I take little credit for them because the kids’ insistence is what made me take the pictures. These turned out to be some of my favourite photos from that time”.
“I’d become a better photographer technically and whilst continuing my studies of Fine Art in Newport I fell out with the staff and was offered a job as staff photographer for the Militant Newspaper. I took the role but stayed in Liverpool for the year of 1985 as my partner was pregnant, and apart from the Miners Strike the battle by Liverpool Militant Labour Council against Thatchers Tory Government was the main social and political event happening. This was also the time I covered the School Strike”.
“I moved to London at the end of ’85 and travelled all over the country, Ireland, France and Spain for the Militant. I moved back to Liverpool in 1990 covering events like the after effects of Hillsborough, the murder of James Bulger, the Alder Hey illegal baby autopsies and the ’95-’98 Liverpool Dockers lock-out which left me exhausted. When I was offered a job as Senior Staff Photographer for Tower Hamlets Council in London I took it and was with them till 2014. Since then I’ve published three books. Liverpool in the 80’s, The 95-98 Liverpool Dockers Lock-out, both with Amberley and the 1985 School Strike with Cafe Royal. I’ve had exhibitions too numerous to mention but the main ones were of the Dockers photos in London, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Koln. The School Strike in Liverpool and most recently in Belfast of a set taken in Belfast in 1988”.
Article by Paul Wright for British Culture Archive.
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