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The Crack Magazine

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When the sixties didn’t swing…

John Bulmer’s extraordinary photographs capture Hartlepool in the winter of 1962-63, and they’re currently getting their first ever showing in the town.

John Bulmer was something of a big cheese among the photographers who rose to the fore in the 1960s. His pioneering colour photojournalism was right at the vanguard of the era with his work regularly featuring in the likes of the Sunday Times magazine (he shared the cover of the very first issue with a certain David Bailey). He travelled widely documenting everything from the Queen’s visit to Ethiopia to what life was like under the North Korean regime. But in the winter of 1962-63 he was tasked with capturing the fortitude of Hartlepool people during the hardships of the time. In the early sixties the town was suffering mass unemployment and Bulmer’s images capture the daily life of men and women who were out of work: gathering sea coal from the beach, waiting in the dole queue, or visiting the labour exchange. But the images are also imbued with a sense of resilience and humour. Bulmer, now 85, comments: “It’s sixty years since ‘the big freeze’, when Hartlepool had a record cold winter which corresponded to having the highest unemployment in the country. The shipyard had just closed, and I made my first trip to Hartlepool. The faces of the people showed an extraordinary fortitude, which is a reminder sixty years on of the strength of the people of the north-east. It is wonderful to show this now in a new Hartlepool.”

John Bulmer: Northern Light, until 4 May, free, Hartlepool Art Gallery,

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