Independent Photography Loses a Friend

Barney Gibbens was an Honorary Member of LIP and supported us in many ways almost from our beginning. When he died earlier this year we featured an acknowledgement on this website of his generosity towards LIP and also a little of his broader contribution to photography.

It was very much in the modest nature of the man that the scope of our comments was limited by the little that we could find out from various sources. Recently however, Greg Lucas, a long time personal friend of Barney and himself a photographer, wrote the following piece for Barney Gibbens’ recent Memorial Service at The Mansion House, which considerably adds to what has already been noted on this website:

 

Many of us know that Barney Gibbens had a life-long interest in photography. Barney was a talented landscape photographer and committed Camera Club member. But few knew of the vast and lasting contribution Barney made to Independent Art Photography in Great Britain during the 1980s and 1990s.

Perhaps his love of the subject came from his father, whose tome-like family albums (made yearly, from the mid 1950s onwards) documented the Gibbens clan, through photographs that demonstrated an in-depth understanding of the medium way beyond that of the average ‘amateur photographer’.

At the time of her death in 2005, Fay Godwin was Britain’s best known landscape photographer (a role she’d inherited from legendary Bill Brandt). Barney both believed in and admired Fay’s work very much, and became a close personal friend. In 1995 Barney provided the financial support necessary (but unforthcoming from The Arts Council, due to cuts) for her seminal book, The Edge of the Land. The book depicted the British coastline, the seaside resorts and clifftop walks we all know, in a new light. To this day the publication is an inspiration for many of my photography students. Barney went on to support Fay’s work (by buying prints and funding exhibitions) right up until the time of her death. Fay Godwin’s archive was considered so important that it has been acquired for the nation. It is housed at the National Media Museum in Bradford. Much of the work we can see there was only made possible because of Barney’s generous support.

In 1990 Barney helped Paul Hill, another one of Britain’s leading landscape photographers, by providing funds for his book White Peak Dark Peak. When it was published it retailed at £15.00. I’ve just looked it up second hand on Amazon and its fetching £88.00! Barney had a very good eye indeed!

Between 1969 and 2005, Creative Camera magazine was Britain’s most important ‘Art Photography’ journal. It was going through hard times in 1997 when I introduced Barney to its editor, David Brittain. Barney provided the magazine with a suite of brand new Apple Macs and other digital equipment. The magazine provided a platform and a voice for generations of ‘emerging talent’ fresh out of college or university, and without Barney’s support (agreed over a lunch in Battersea Rise) the magazine might have folded. Barney went on to support publications for London Independent Photography and many photographic organizations.

In 1998, my monograph Mrs Sharpe’s Cracks was nominated for the prestigious Citibank Photography Award (the Booker Prize of the photography publishing world). There was a half-page feature in The Times. It helped launch my career. And who funded the book? You guessed it, Barney Gibbens. Barney Gibbens was one on his own. Independent Art Photography has lost a true friend.

Greg Lucas
(DeMontfort University, Leicester)