Micklefield

Photograph
1981 (photographed), 2011 (printed)
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Born in London in 1965, photographer Gavin Watson grew up on a council estate in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. He bought a Hanimex camera from Woolworths in his early teens and began to take photographs of his younger brother Neville and their group of skinhead friends. The images have become an important visual record of the skinhead subculture, often challenging the racial stereotypes surrounding it.

The ‘Wycombe Skins’ adopted the closely shaved hairstyles, Harrington jackets, rolled up Levi’s jeans and Doc Marten boots that skinheads were known for across Britain. The reappearance of the distinctive style in the late 1970s and early 1980s revived the skinhead youth culture of the 1960s, which originally emerged as a working class take on popular fashion and music of the period. Early skinheads shared an interest in the Jamaican music styles of reggae, ska, soul and rocksteady, while the skinhead revival surrounded the new ‘two tone’ ska music of bands like Madness and The Specials.

Skinheads were influenced by Jamaican rude boys; another subcultural group which introduced Jamaican music to Britain. Despite the mixed cultural heritage of skinhead style, it became increasingly associated with the extreme right wing politics of groups like the National Front in the 1970s. Taken when Watson was sixteen years old, this photograph documents the racially inclusive nature of skinhead life in High Wycombe. In an attempt to look beyond the racial politics, Watson has since suggested that his photographs might help people to, ‘see skinheads for what they mostly were. Just kids learning about themselves, getting dressed up and having a laugh.’

The V&A acquired two photographs by Gavin Watson as part of the Staying Power project. Photographs by Syd Shelton which document resistance to racial boundaries in rock music, largely through the organisation Rock Against Racism, were also acquired as part of the project. Staying Power is a five year partnership between the V&A and Black Cultural Archives. The project aims to explore black British experience from the 1950s to the 1990s through photographs acquired by the V&A and oral histories conducted by Black Cultural Archives.
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read Staying Power: Photographs of Black British Experience Working in partnership with Black Cultural Archives, we identified and acquired photographs taken by black photographers, or which document the lives of black people in Britain, taken between the 1950s – 90s.
object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Gelatin silver print
Brief Description
Photograph by Gavin Watson, 'Micklefield', gelatin silver print, High Wycombe, 1981, printed in 2011
Physical Description
A black and white photograph of four young boys in a field behind a row of houses. A young black boy stands looking down at an item he is holding in the central foreground of the image; he appears out of focus. Two young white boys either side of him have skinhead haircuts and, along with a young black boy in the background, they all look out to the right of the frame.
Dimensions
  • Image size height: 592mm
  • Image size width: 400mm
  • Paper size height: 609mm
  • Paper size width: 501mm
  • Mount size height: 743mm
  • Mount size width: 542mm
Styles
Credit line
Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Object history
The V&A acquired this photograph as part of the Staying Power project. Staying Power is a five year partnership between the V&A and Black Cultural Archives. The project aims to explore black British experience from the 1950s to the 1990s through photographs acquired by the V&A and oral histories conducted by Black Cultural Archives.
Subjects depicted
Place Depicted
Summary
Born in London in 1965, photographer Gavin Watson grew up on a council estate in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. He bought a Hanimex camera from Woolworths in his early teens and began to take photographs of his younger brother Neville and their group of skinhead friends. The images have become an important visual record of the skinhead subculture, often challenging the racial stereotypes surrounding it.



The ‘Wycombe Skins’ adopted the closely shaved hairstyles, Harrington jackets, rolled up Levi’s jeans and Doc Marten boots that skinheads were known for across Britain. The reappearance of the distinctive style in the late 1970s and early 1980s revived the skinhead youth culture of the 1960s, which originally emerged as a working class take on popular fashion and music of the period. Early skinheads shared an interest in the Jamaican music styles of reggae, ska, soul and rocksteady, while the skinhead revival surrounded the new ‘two tone’ ska music of bands like Madness and The Specials.



Skinheads were influenced by Jamaican rude boys; another subcultural group which introduced Jamaican music to Britain. Despite the mixed cultural heritage of skinhead style, it became increasingly associated with the extreme right wing politics of groups like the National Front in the 1970s. Taken when Watson was sixteen years old, this photograph documents the racially inclusive nature of skinhead life in High Wycombe. In an attempt to look beyond the racial politics, Watson has since suggested that his photographs might help people to, ‘see skinheads for what they mostly were. Just kids learning about themselves, getting dressed up and having a laugh.’



The V&A acquired two photographs by Gavin Watson as part of the Staying Power project. Photographs by Syd Shelton which document resistance to racial boundaries in rock music, largely through the organisation Rock Against Racism, were also acquired as part of the project. Staying Power is a five year partnership between the V&A and Black Cultural Archives. The project aims to explore black British experience from the 1950s to the 1990s through photographs acquired by the V&A and oral histories conducted by Black Cultural Archives.
Associated Object
E.361-2011 (Series)
Bibliographic Reference
Watson, G. SKINS & PUNKS (Brooklyn: Vice Books, 2008), illustrated, pg. 37
Collection
Accession Number
E.362-2011

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record createdAugust 15, 2011
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