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How I understand Britain: photographs that define the country

Former Guardian picture editor Eamonn McCabes TV series Britain in Focus has been charting the history of photography in the UK. Here, Irvine Welsh, Sadiq Khan, Jeanette Winterson, Nadav Kander and others pick the kills that sum up Britishness for them

A stunning miner, Orgreave, 1984

Luke Wright, poet

This rich, beautiful photo by Don McPhee establishes impressing miner( Striking? Hes utterly elegant !) George Geordie Brealey( right) and policeman Paul Castle( far left) at Orgreave on 18 June 1984. What followed, known as the Battle of Orgreave, was one of the severest conflicts in recent British civil biography, as 6,000 police officer and 5,000 miners faced off at the Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire.

Brealey was said to have form for joking and jester with police officers on the picket line. Wearing a childs bobbies helmet, he would pretend to inspect the lines. Here is one humanity, sarcastically incognito, facing an infinite militarised police force. Brealey is at once brave, good-humoured and anti-establishment a British hero.

I was two in 1984, so this event is beyond my living remember, but it seems increasingly relevant to the disagreements of contemporary Britain. Orgreave recognized a turning point in the 1984 -8 5 miners strike, and for labour relations in the UK. Zero-hours contracts, the left-behind, the fractions of Brexit they part back to a moment like this.

The Boy With the Flag, 1970 Image: Vanley Burke

The Boy With the Flag, 1970

David Lammy, Labour MP

Vanley Burkes image gives the promise of second-generation immigrants born in Britain after their parents had landed on our coasts on the Windrush in 1948. My mothers were part of the Windrush generation, so this photo has a particular poignancy for me. Long before Linford Christie or Jessica Ennis prevailed gold medals for Britain and wrap themselves in the British pennant, these young men and women began to identify with the country that was their alone home.

Of course, this was the opening up of a bittersweet age for ethnic minorities in Britain: Enoch Powell, unfriendly police sus rules, flunking schools and the developing quarrel of inner-city life for immigrant communities. But the committee is also captivates the proposed establishment of multicultural Britain and communicate a being of hope and opportunity. This generation of ethnic minorities would go on to oblige substantial myriad contributions to Britain, from the rebirth of the NHS to the transformation of the Premier League. Nothing would be quite the same again.

Didcot power station, 27 July 2014

Didcot power station, Oxfordshire, UK, 27 July 2014. Photograph: ajsissues/ Alamy Stock Photo

Joan Bakewell, broadcaster

I cherished these cooling towers at Didcot in Oxfordshire[ which were dismantled in July 2014] they were things of real glamour. Whenever I passed on the train, I would put down my book to experience them. They had enormous sweeping curves and in all climates moved a different face to the world. We save windmills and steam learns, so why not these?

There is something poignant about the deaths among builds: industrial ones signal the be removed from one epoch to new technologies to another. Their eradication celebrates the pas of age, of one way of looking and being into another that we cant yet imagine. The minute when they fall to the field marks a moment in biography proceeded for ever. No speculate parties gaze in feeling when that happens.

Soldiers from the Womens Royal Army Corps in their service vehicle, driving through Trafalgar Square during the VE Day celebrations in London. Image: RJ Salmon/ Getty Images

VE fetes, 8 May 1945

Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner

This photograph captures the pleasure of one of the most important point times of the 20 th century the win over autocracy in 1945. It too symbolises the enormous paces stimulated for equal opportunities in the second world war. Girls recruited previously all-male positions: without their struggle try, we might not have triumphed over nazism.

The second world war was Britain at its best. It was the peoples of the territories conflict, where our citizens showed fortitude and sacrifice beyond our modern resources. It proved that district involvement and a socialised economy can work.

Privilege and profiteering were deemed disgraceful. The common good came firstly. Beings of all castes, hastens and societies united to protect Britain against the Nazis. We accepted refugees and allied with subjugated Europeans. The is necessary to a fairer, more equal culture was the social consensus.

The wartime Common Wealth party was the equivalent of the anti-Tory partnership we need today: it joined progressives, radicals and independents. Well to the left of Jeremy Corbyn, it represented progressive plans favourite and won wartime byelections.

Social justice had mass appeal in the second world war. The parties expected, and later achieved, public ownership of major industries and the creation of the NHS and social security. They acquired social justice in 1945. Why cant we prevail it is currently?

British politician Nigel Farage satisfies President Elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower, NYC, on 12 November 2016.
Photograph: Wigmore/ Finn/ Splash News

Donald Trump and Nigel Farage, 12 November 2016

Irvine Welsh, generator

This picture of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage says so much about our brand-new age of politics: an American millionaires tax-dodging son and an English investment banker celebrate the realisation of their dreams. The American gets to run the world. The Englishman get nothing but the heartbreaking contentment of playing courtroom fool to the American, in this new world order he has undeniably facilitated bring about. The dispirited and overcome former aristocrats of labour in the post-industrial American and UK wastelands, their unions crushed, their wages lowered, suppressed by 30 years of neoliberalism, get two affluent followers posing outside a golden filch. And the powerful one has a squad scheming 24/7 about how to reduce them to farther penury and serfdom. The Thatcher-Reagan era was the domination of the 1 %. This word-painting represents the official coronation of the new toytown sovereigns and their hapless puppets, and the rubber-stamping of medieval, tyrannical politics in a hi-tech macrocosm.

Miner at his evening snack, 1937. Photo: Bill Brandt

Northumbrian coalminer and his wife, 1937

Eamonn McCabe, photographer

In 1937, German-born Bill Brandt travelled to the north of England where he would be the first to incorporate modes from arts and photojournalism. As a immigrant, he raised a dispassionate, interlopers perspective, claiming that he wasnt making a political moment, but his envisions have become the defining epitomes of the Great Depression.

Brandt also wanted to fetching his highly stylised approach to photograph uncompromising paintings of the people who lived and made in these industrial communities like this shot Brandts most celebrated image from his northern journey take place within 1937, of a Northumbrian miner devouring his tea, watched over by his wife.

Although for me there is a sense that Brandt has carefully posed this situation, targeting the characters and organizing the prepare, does this detract from the superpower of the portrait? Brandts northern work never built him money and was published only later. But what he had achieved with these envisions was an unprecedented grouped together of styles to create a stark and evocative eyesight of Britain never seen before.

Brandt never stopped pushing the borders of his art and he is rightly be regarded of the most important photographers to have worked in Britain. He would also go on to work on a groundbreaking brand-new publication that photographed every aspect of British life. On 1 October 1938, the Picture Post was launched, a weekly publication fitted with photographs on every page, the fact-finding mission testimony to make a visual enter of British parties at home, at work and at performance.

David Weir, Paralympic Games, 2012

London 2012 Paralympic Games. David Weir of GB celebrates prevailing the three men T54 800 m final . . Picture: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian

Melanie C, vocalist

This shot is incredible. David Weir with his trademark roar is on the track in his succes pose, arms spread broad and his contestants blurred in the background. We have celebrated Olympic athletes for a very long time, but actually the people who are achieving prodigious occasions against the report is our Paralympians, who for so long were overlooked.

When it came to people with disabilities, I used to feel doubtful about the etiquette, but the most difficult happening that we gained from 2012 s Paralympics was the way it changed postures in general. It was a really special season and it altered families views for ever. Weir held claims. He won the marathon. He prevailed four golds in 2012.

Britain has a honour for being a bit negative, a little bit bleak. But that summer we demo the world how to do it. Everyone pulled together and it was a positive time to be in London. This image, along with so many others, reminds me of a year in which I seemed so lucky to live in the capital. It was a wonderful epoch, and, for me, this image imparts so much ability, fortitude, decide everything that the Paralympics was. ( As told to Harriet Gibsone )

Battle of Cable Street, Aldgate, London, 5 October 1936. An anti-fascist army, some of them carrying weapons, run from a barricade they have erected near Aldgate. The police are charging on the far side of the barricade, which has been reinforced with paving stones. Photo: Heritage Likeness/ Getty Images

Battle of Cable Street, 5 October 1936

Sadiq Khan, mayor of London

More than 80 years ago in October 1936 millions of brave and heroic guys, women and children gathered to oppose autocracy in what became known as the Battle of Cable Street.

That day, Mosleys totalitarians were forcing them a demeaning retreat something achieved only through the strength of people and communities coming together. A coalition was organize of Jewish East Enders, Irish dockworkers, trade unionists, Labour party members and many more coming together in solidarity to rebuff autocracy and everything associated with it.

This was a historic turning point, a succes that had lasting repercussions because it was indicated that autocracy could be repelled through communities unifying something that should continue to stimulate us.

Last October, the 80 th anniversary of Cable Street, I was proud to join another coalition of politicians, the Jewish community , labor union, anti-racist organisations, Bangladeshi associations and many others , is not simply to honour and remember the courageou people who fought against autocracy in 1936, but to show our commitment and resolve to sustain that crusade. To say: where reference is realize something that is contentious, go against our British ethics and are just fundamentally wrong, we must call them out; well never give dictatorship, racism or prejudice dominate. These are prices that ring true in London, more than anywhere in the world.

Womens March, London, 21 January 2017

Womens March, London, 21 January 2017. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/ Getty Images

Kate Nash, vocalist

Whats so cool about this paint is that you have an iconic British statue alongside a theme on gender equality. There were a quantities of signals at the womens parade in London its become really popular to get inventive with them.

There has been a predisposition within history in general for women to be small, to cross their leg and touch their whisker. Even in the music industry, soldiers have tried to quieten me down and package me differently. Now dames want to express themselves and be a part of things. Its about grouped together to stand up for induces we believe in, and being intersectional in our feminism. This sign has such a potent content its unapologetic, its raging. Its not going to be tamed by anybody. Nobodys going to tell a lion to shut up theyd be gobbled!

It looks as if someone has left this posting there at the end of the march. It is a piece of art it retains on telling a tale even when youve got on the Tube and gone home. ( As told to Leah Harper )

A Line Shaped by Walking, 1967 Photograph: Richard Long. All Right Reserved, DACS 2017

A Line Realise By Walking, 1967

Nadav Kander, photographer

I has actually thoughts having this photograph in my home and it making different things to me at different times in my life. Its a paint thats so matured. Before you understand what it outlines, its such a nourishing, simple-minded epitome. Then, when “youre reading” that this was a line that Richard Long established himself, by sauntering up and down, up and down theres something so figurative and subtle about it.

I love photography in which the master can be seen in the epitome. Long has preserved his own pres on the planet and the path he colonizes his surroundings with this photograph. That act of making art is beautiful to me; it ever induces me fantastically happy.

I first saw this image when I was a photographers assistant in the West End of London. I used to visit Adrian Ensor, the printer in Fitzrovia who used to periodical Richards work. For me, this image is like a Matisse drawing of a face, where the charcoal-gray hasnt been lifted from the paper and hitherto you feel as if you might know the girl imaged. Its that various kinds of goody and prowess that I love.

Sometimes, when an master happens in their artistry, I find it improbably heavy-handed its so evident, like an interior design periodical. But with Longs work is featherlight and nuanced. The person behind the epitome ever interests me as much as the picture itself and I like to see their fingerprint in their work. ( As told to Leah Harper )

David Cameron, June 2015

David Cameron at the European head of government summit at the EU Council headquarters in Brussels. The Financial Meter exploited this photo immediately after Brexit. Image: Wiktor Dabkowski/ eyevine

Jeanette Winterson, author

This photograph though taken in 2015 was on the front covering of the Financial Times immediately after Brexit. Theres David Cameron, the legalised gambler, betting Britain on the roulette wheel, confident the pellet would revolve calmly back to pitch-black. Instead, the economic austerity measures that drove the UK deeper and deeper into the red-faced made certain that the play itself would end on cherry-red. Red alert. Red faces. The reptilian psyche of the Tory party delighted they had been allowed to bet the country on a deluded dream of an island territory. And those inexpensive forgeries, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, thrilling to an outcome that would work in the services offered of their personal ambition.

That nauseating darknes, as the roulette wheel slow-going, the count was in, and the UK was out of Europe. Cameron and George Osborne never believed it could happen. Arrogant classy boys out of contact with the miseries its own policy had functioned. No plan for what would does happen. Cameron abdicated. I presume he thought that was noble. He should have been forced to clean up his own mess. Not hanging in there to shape millions.

But he hadnt lost his coin, or his house, or his future. He saved that for the little people. The beings his government had been gambling with all along. Abruptly there was a chance for the little beings to invent the wheel. No one told them that once again they could only forget.

The final episode of Britain in Focus: A Photographic History is on BBC4 on Monday 20 March at 9pm. <a

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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