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“When you’re young the concerns of your parents, teachers and any other authorities you come across seem trivial…how are you going to earn a living, avoid dying in some stupid motorcycle accident or be accepted into a university? No…Not worth thinking about. Far more important is the question of whether your hair should stick up or lie flat on your head.” –John Kuti (on The Face), British Council

The explanation in the quote immediately gives me a sense of rebellion and disregard. The Specials lyrics in the previous post reflects this, and the ‘far more important’ question about style shows a seemingly fashion and culturally conscious youth. “In my teenage years, one of the special things about Britain was the huge amount of information about music. There were 3 weekly newspapers about music: Sounds, Melody Maker and the New Musical Express.” (Britsh Council) Having media outlets for youth increases self identification with a particular cultural group, resulting in particular styles in fashion and music. This is true of punks and the music with which they associate in the 80s. The significance of music in noted in the British Council’s article “I think music is deeply connected with memory because of the emotions it evokes”. You could argue from this that Day’s photos do the same in the sense of documenting that emotion of rebellious and careless youth.

Celebrity culture also is of some relevance. “It was possible for a group to get onto the front cover of one of the music papers without even having made any records – but they absolutely needed things to say for the journalists to write about. In fact, the best pop stars of the 1980s were people whose main talent was exactly that. They weren’t great musicians or singers and they weren’t especially good looking, but they had a certain eccentricity and a nice way with clever phrases. They were ideal for filling music papers.” (British Council) I’m interested in the notion of the needlessness for musicians to be good looking, so far from celebrity culture of the modern day. The idea of aesthetic imperfection is a theme in Day’s work, a preexisting theme in the 80s. The notion of having something interesting or anything at all to say is a key aspect of youth culture, and can be linked to Day’s approach to photography and ideas of fashion. She may not have been the only person to say something similar about fashion, however she is strongly remembered for having said something in her work. I’m curious to find out about others who have said the same.

Brixton 1981, Neil Libbert

Although this is in the 80s, I find this image quite telling, shot by Neil Libbert in Brixton 1981, the photo is of a dole queue and shows some graffiti reading, ” Be a jerk, go go to work”. This would be around the time of the early recession, as well as Thatcherism. I’m not sure if I want to research more into this, however based on what I already know, have found out, and from this image, it seems like disregard and rebellion, as well has something to say may have been fueled by the state. Day also mentions how she didn’t view her career as a job, uninterested in commercialism, echoing the message in the graffiti.

* I could use the above link to find out about the economic aspects of the 80s later, however, I only mean this as an introductory post to various themes that I can clearly uncover and identify to Day.

Students, Polytechnic of Wales, 1986

As a 12 year old I was convinced the world was going to end by 1985! BBC had “Threads” that killed everybody except Sheffield dentists and traffic wardens! Scared the living daylights into me when I saw it. Everybody seemed to be on the warpath in the early 80s. Everybody was skint, everybody was angry! Then there was Bob Geldof and Live Aid. Who remembers watching it with your mum and dad; the moment he loses it and says “Don’t go down the pub, give us your *** money right now”!!? Good times!

Jonathan Cale (BBC News), Gloucester

As a schoolkid growing up I remember the 80s vividly. Pop music everywhere, seeing the Challenger disaster on Newsround and learning what a “yuppy” was.

Darren Prescott, Leysdown, UK

The 80s were great! No more flares, The Police, The Smiths, Duran Duran. Raiders of the Lost Ark, BladeRunner, the Terminator. Playing Jetpak on my Sinclair Spectrum, and two great World Cups – I particularly remember Brazil v Italy in 1982 and Gary Lineker almost equalizing against Argentina in Mexico. In politics I remember it being trendy to support CND and the miners, but SO glad Maggie faced them down. If they had won we would now be in the grip of the Unions and/or the Russians.

FM, London (BBC News)

These memories from various people on the BBC news site are quite telling, and give a primary source of experience of the 1980s. Various post modern discourses are mention, with people being interested in smaller issues and minor political parties. Also the sense of anger also apparent in the Brixton riots of 1981 is a theme of the times, and the reference to pop music being everywhere is also mentioned. Day’s work can be argued as reflecting post modern ideas, typically 80s like, challenging the notion of beauty as categorical, and notions of femininity with androgynous models. Her ‘skint’ lifestyle also fits the image painted by the quotes. BBC ran a poll in which 70.26% of 19,640 people voted the 1980s as good.

Being born in 1961 and then growing up during the 60s and 70s I found the 80’s a huge disappointment! Just as I was getting old enough to enjoy myself without parental supervision! In the 60s they had free love, drugs, wild new music, in the 70s Glam and Punk rock, more free love, fun clothes. The 80s gave us Thatcherism, Aids, poncey poodle fashions and the most celebrated music star – Boy George telling us ‘War, War is stupid…

A J Mills, Hornton/Banbury UK

This cynicism post 80s may explain Day’s criticality of the fashion which proceeded her work.

It was a fantastic time particularly the early 80s. I was born in the late 50s and the rebellion fostered by rock music reached its zenith with the 80s, great bands, fashion (I was living in London at the time), a leader we could demonize. Thatcher’s Britain, we hated her, we shared visions of revolt, of revolution. Hanging out with the underdogs of this new capitalist revolution we saw all too well the pitfalls of indulging man’s inherent greed, witness the stock market crash later in the 80s.

Mike Stapleton, Bristol

This rebellion is a theme in Day’s work, as well as in youth culture. With music being an influence in Day’s work, so is rebellion.

Nicholas Shaddick, The Losers, England 1980s

My memories of the whole decade are of huge and bitter contrasts between the culture and values of those who did well out of the ‘Thatcher Revolution’ and those who lost out. Coming from South Wales but going to art college in London, I saw both sides of 80s Britain, and my abiding memories are of new extremes of behaviour and action across the board. Some snapshots of the ‘losers’ first: Going to Ebbw Vale in the early 80s and finding the steelworks that was the physical and emotional heart of the town (which stands at the head of a narrow, steep-sided valley) completely gone; vanished, leaving only a big, irregular field of graded earth and rubble fringed with terraced houses. Economically inevitable perhaps, but it looked like Hiroshima…And my upside? Amazing creativity and luxury in London. Great clubs, great art, music, design and film and lots and lots of dressing up. Boy, did we dress up, not those awful new romantic frills, but as 40s jazzmen, 50s beatniks, 30s Soviet workers, Cecil Beaton debutantes, Gothic cowboys, anything we wanted. We ransacked the culture of the 20th Century and played out all our favourite fantasies in clubs and parties. London was an amazingly open place; clubs would appear for just a night in abandoned warehouses in the East End, art events would take place on waste ground awaiting redevelopment into ‘Docklands’. There was always someone with a good idea, and someone with some money to finance it.

Nicholas Shaddick, Rye, England

The photo posted on BBC News by Nicholas Shaddick seems to me to have a similar style and imagery to that of Day’s ‘anti-glamorous’ shots. Whilst this enriches the ‘realness’ of her work, it makes me perceive her as working in an already existing style rather than the pioneer of it. Taking Chandler’s view, this is inevitable, with ‘pop music everywhere’ and living in a media saturated society. Also the notion made by Nicholas Shaddick, “Boy did we dress up”, reminds me of Day’s account in ‘Imperfect Beauty’ of how she and Tara would go to markets and buy second hand clothes, fashion being an important aspect, as much as it is for youth. Also the want for freedom, “anything we wanted…[playing] out all our favourite fantasies…”, is reflected in Day’s intentions and the careless sub-cultural lifestyle of the 80s. This freedom, and carelessness is apparent in Day’s work, her subjects looking disengage, a sense of nonchalance and disregard of consequence.

Tara 1999

Vinca 1997

Jess, New Years Eve Party

Brixton 1981, Niel Libbert [online image] available from:

Students, Polytechnic of Wales, 1986 [online image] available from:

The Losers, Nicholas Shaddick, 1980s [online image] avaliable from:


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