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Chris Killip’s Isle of Man Revisited

In 2013 Manx National Heritage acquired 250 photographic prints of Chris Killip’s powerful Manx images all taken between 1970 and 1973. Some were published in 1980 in Isle of Man. A book about the Manx. The book has long been out of print.

The Manx Museum exhibition Chris Killip’s Isle of Man Revisited (May – August 2016) featured people, landscapes, buildings, places of work and places of rest. Many of these images appear in Killip’s 2015 book Isle of Man Revisited but some had not been exhibited before.

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PG/14734 Chris Killip © Kent Rodzwicz

Killip was born in 1946 in the Highlander Inn to Alan and Molly (née Quirk). Later his father ran other pubs resulting in Chris living in Peel until 15, then moving to Douglas. His first job was in the Castle Mona Hotel. When his father offered to pay hotel management training fees… “I was in a complete dilemma about this very generous offer. It put me right against the wall.

Chris had spotted a Henri Cartier-Bresson image in a Paris Match magazine (Rue Mouffetard, Paris, 1954). It made a big impact and led to his decision to become a photographer. To raise money for a move to London, Chris worked as a Keigs beach photographer in Port Erin: “They gave me a Leica to sort of practice the first week and then they took it off me because I was hopeless and they gave me a Kodak Retina IIb which was more automatic, more my speed and that’s the camera I photographed on for the summer. I got half a crown in the pound commission.”

Killip found work as a photographer’s assistant with Adrian Flowers at his Chelsea studio. He received his first camera as a Christmas present from Flowers in 1964. Five years later, in New York City for a shoot with the model Twiggy, he visited the Museum of Modern Art and was inspired by the respect given to photography.
“It was as serious as everything else in the museum which for me was very thrilling. And I realised then that you could do photography for its own sake which was a big dramatic moment for me… I didn’t want to be in advertising with a fast result, I could just do it.”

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I went and hired a plate camera and reluctantly too and got film and came back to the Isle of Man and the first picture I took was at the Golden Meadow Mill of Mr Cubbon, the miller. He criticised me a few years ago about how long I took to take the picture. Well it was the first time I had ever used the plate camera for myself …

Chris Killip

Mr Cubbon, Golden Meadow Mill, Castletown
(PG/14444/1/64)

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These are I think Irish lads at Port St Mary and they are barrelling the herring. They are the crew who salted and barrelled the herring and if I remember correctly they were Irish.

Chris Killip

Irish men barrelling herring, Port St Mary
(PG/14444/2/79)

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Mrs Radcliffe, who had the Lhen café which she opened up in the war when Jurby had a lot of airmen. We used to go there on a Sunday in the ‘50s and ‘60s. She was a very industrious woman. She used to make the bread, the scones, the cake, the jam for the café and she made all her own clothes… She didn’t buy shop clothes – she said to me what is winter for.

Chris Killip

Mrs Radcliffe and her helpers, The Lhen café, Andreas
(PG/14444/2/77)

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I don’t want photography to transcend its subject matter, but for many art historians that is the limitation of photography …I don’t see it as a limitation; it puts me more in the camp of photography than art when I say I don’t acknowledge that as a limitation, I acknowledge it as an interesting fact and strength. Why would I want to transcend the subject when I am interested in the subject matter.

Chris Killip

The Halfway House, Crosby
(PG/14444/3/68)

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I was a bit obsessed with the Curraghs, trying to get the pick of all the photos in there. The Curraghs, it’s a wild place.

Chris Killip

Trees, The Curraghs
(PG/14444/3/12)