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IWM Contemporary: Edward Barber

Peace Signs
IWM London

IWM London presents Edward Barber’s Peace Signs, an exhibition of more than 40 photographs that explore the anti-nuclear protest movement in 1980s Britain. The exhibition will offer a contemporary reinterpretation of photographs taken by British documentary photographer Edward Barber, who recorded major protests staged at key sites such as RAF/USAF Greenham Common, Westminster, Trafalgar Square and the City of London. The body of work is a unique social document of mass popular protest in late twentieth century Britain which has rarely been seen in public since it was first published in 1984.

Peace Signs, Barber’s collected body of work, was originally taken to attract media attention to the anti-nuclear movement. The exhibition will explore these protests as multi-generational and distinctly British forms of self-expression. Illuminating the activists’ humour and creativity, Barber’s images create a social record of both individual and collective responses to war.

The photographs capture hand-rendered signs, banners, badges, clothing, make-up and costumes, and illustrate the often overlooked role of performance theatre, folk art and fashion at peace camps and demonstrations. They also highlight the important role of women in the movement and the activity of the female-only protest camp at RAF/USAF Greenham Common, which marks its 35th anniversary this year.


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©Edward Barber ‘Stop the City’ protester at the Bank of England, City of London (1983)


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©Edward Barber ‘Embrace the Base’: 30,000 women link hands, completely surrounding the nine mile perimeter fence at RAF/USAF Greenham Common, Berkshire (1982)


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©Edward Barber Labour Party “Nuclear Arms No – Peace Yes’ rally in Hyde Park, London (1980)


The display offers a fresh interpretation of the images: the photographs will be contextualised by a graphic installation entitled Mind Map of Anti-Nuclear Protest, created by Edward Barber specifically for this exhibition. The Mind Map will trace his contemporary re-evaluation of the events he captured in the 1980s. Selections of Barber’s photographs were first published in international media outlets like The Guardian, The Observer Magazine, NME and US News & World Report in the 1980s. They were also disseminated globally by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and published as the book Peace Moves in 1984. The photographs also toured nationally in 1984 as the exhibition Bomb Disposal, to venues such as Camerawork, London and Watershed, Bristol. His images were also shown at the ICA and Tate Britain. About Edward Barber
Edward Barber is a British documentary photographer best known for his portrait work which, during a career spanning 40 years, has been exhibited widely in the UK by The Design Museum, Museum of London, National Portrait Gallery, The Photographer’s Gallery and the V&A. He is also a designer, curator and teacher, and was formerly Subject Director for Fashion Photography at the London College of Fashion. Quotes
‘I see this as preventative photography. The photographs here are both a celebration and a warning.’ Edward Barber, Photographer ‘Peace Signs will highlight the often overlooked elements of performance theatre, folk art and fashion which form an essential part of mass protest in the modern age.’ Hilary Roberts, Research Curator of Photography, IWM