One of the greatest pleasures at British Culture Archive is stumbling across a body of work that has been sat unseen in a photographers archives for many years. This was the case with Heidi Alexander, whose incredible images from Stockport in the 1970s eventually saw the light of day after she delved into her archives during the first Covid lockdown in the UK.
On seeing the images we got in touch to with Heidi to find out more about this incredible body of work and her path into photography.
Heidi “I was born and raised in Switzerland by my American single mother, I started snapping bits of a nomadic childhood with cheap plastic cameras given to me by my absent father, a motor racing photographer. In 1969 my mother brought myself, along with my four siblings to Scotland. I think that’s partly why I was drawn to take photos in the streets here, (in Scotland and England) – it was all so unfamiliar, almost exotic.
“After attending Stirling University during the 1970’s I eventually settled in Edinburgh. Marriage and family took priority over the offer of a place at David Hurn’s Documentary Photography course in Newport in Wales in 1977, though I spent my first pregnancy building a darkroom and took my film camera along to mother and toddler groups.
“The work of Weegee, Diane Arbus, Eve Arnold, Vivian Maier and David Hurn to name a few, have always been an inspiration.”
Stockport In The 1970s
“Since my recent retirement from a career in Child Protection Social Work, I continue to enjoy documenting life with digital equipment, mainly of people and everyday situations, on local streets in the UK and during my travels abroad.”
“Recently, our 2020 Covid-19 lockdown prompted a clear out, and the discovery of old negatives such as the Stockport Market collection. Apparently, in 1977, I was doing what is now popularly known as ‘street photography’. The images bring back happy memories recording a lively atmosphere of warm community alongside hardship and hard work. I only visited Stockport Market twice in the 1970s, and only shot five rolls of Tri-X on a Leica M4 – I wish I’d taken more! I remember the bustle and the noise, especially the street pastors and their singing followers competing with the shouting traders for customers’ attention.”
“One or two people noticed a young female with a camera, but most were too busy finding that bargain or exchanging the latest gossip. Despite the bleakness, the atmosphere was unmistakably warm and energetic and jolly. It was forty-seven years ago, but I wonder where some of those characters are now”.
“Looking at the images I am chuffed at the lack of cropping required in my results, which tells me I was really enjoying myself. The negatives have endured several house moves and occasionally dodgy storage in Scotland.
Thanks to social media and Instagram, I was delighted to come across British Culture Archive. Tish Murtha is a new discovery, thank you!’ I hope people keep having these clear outs, and sharing their own historic photographic treasures of their lives and communities.”
All images © Heidi Alexander, all rights reserved.