Social Structure | Task 6

(Mike Joslin)


Research into an image | set of images which cover social structure. Discuss how effective comment was and technique used. How do you think it was distributed? What was the target audience?
I began my research by defining the word ‘Social Structure’ and other words relating to the terms, I found that these led me sociological referencing which I could relate to due to my past studies within the subject area. This gave a new scope of the research task and made it even more exciting and interesting to me as I found myself combining photography with sociology and how photographs can affect society and vent a public emotion, I could now see the direct links between the two, and how they go hand in hand.

Instantly when the task was set, I thought of photographer Chris Killip and his word titled ‘In Flagrante’, some of his striking black and white imagery sprung to mind. In Flagrante is a story book which encapsulates the feelings of working-class society during a time of depression in Northern England during the 80’s.

I researched into the imagery within In Flagrante using the Internet and started to analyse them for myself and also looked at other peoples thoughts of the book through a blog forum which guided my understanding and made me think of other aspects within the reasoning for its publication. During researching this, I was particularly interested in reading the essay within the book by John Berger and Steven Grant, so looked for a copy via X-STREAM to discover there was a copy of the Errata edition published in 2008 at City Campus.

From discovering we had the book at Leeds Met, I placed a hold on the book and had it delivered to Headingley campus to go and collect and loan. From this I have read and studied the photographs and combined quotes/essay writings from other sourced and found it extremely beneficial in understanding and writing for this task.

Now with this extensive evidence of Killip and his work from Internet sources and all the information from the book I found that this method of researching using different sources a lot more helpful in order to fully understand what I’m talking about. This gave me chance to read and immerse myself in a book rather than just skim read a webpage/article. I also looked into Online Journalism articles based on Killip to have an understanding of how his work can relate and be spoken about by a Journalist. His documentary photography style and subject matter are aspects that interest me and I would like to use them in further work to come.

Social Structure –

  • social organisation: the people in a society considered as a system organized by a characteristic pattern of relationships; “the social organization of England and America is very different”; “sociologists have studied the changing structure of the family”
  • Social structure is a term used in the social sciences to refer to patterned social arrangements in society that are both emergent from and determinant of the actions of the individuals. The usage of the term “social structure” has changed over time and may reflect the various levels of analysis within differing sub-fields of sociology
  • How society is organised and constructed.
  • The patterned and relatively stable arrangement of roles and statuses found within societies and social institutions. The idea of social structure points out the way in which societies, and institutions within them, exhibit predictable patterns of organization, activity and social interaction.

“Chris Killip is not a sociologist with a camera, nor a historian. He is an artist, a poet, with a compulsion to enter people’s lives and try and make something of them. To understand them perhaps. To share his compulsion with us – undoubtedly. To assume the role of advocate – possibly. Or maybe it is all an attempt to reveal something else, both known and unknown.” Gerry Badger (Quoted in Chris Killip, Phaidon 55).


In general, social structure is a sociological term that relates to society in general, different aspects of society specifically and when further defined and probed into, the term relates to many different things that are perceived within society both in modern day and also in history. Things such as relationships and behaviours are connected with social structure and within certain sub-cultures or when placed into a group, peoples attitudes and behaviours in he term “class” is etymologically derived from the Latin classis, which was used by census takers to categorise citizens by wealth, in order to determine military service obligations. Society have shifted and changed due to popularity throughout the years, particularly in Britain as certain events have defined and formed these attitudes such as: the depression, government, laws, revolutions, riots, etc. This part of ‘social structure’ interests me personally as I find it fascinating as a former sociology student, how patterns of behaviours and attitudes in people can alter, shift and transform due to influences from either inside or outside individuals in society.

The social structure of “class” as a set of concepts created by social/political sciences links into my interests within human behaviour within society. When defined, the term has different contextual meanings. Most often, “social class” defines as- “people having the same social, economic, or educational status,” For example, well known terms such as “the working class, middle class, upper class” that we in modern society are aware of, originate from this. In history also, the term “class” is etymologically derived from the Latin classis, which was used by census takers to categorize citizens by wealth, in order to determine military service obligations.

Moments both in history and current times, have been captured by various photographers from different viewpoints and opinions. Images have the power to sometimes blur or mislead the audience’s perception from what was really happening at that event, that specific moment in time. I am focussing my research on a photographer who documented and depicted peoples attitudes and behaviours during Britain in the 1980’s. Chris Killip’s imagery has been regarded among the most important visual records of living in 1980’s Britain.

Entitled In Flagrante (Latin) which translates to “in blazing offence” and is a legal term used to indicate that a criminal has been caught in the act of committing an offence. The word also refers to “caught in the act”, “caught red-handed”, or “caught rapid” are equivalents in English. Killip displayed 50 black and white gritty photographs which documented people and place in various locations in Northern England. These images are seen as a series of visual anthropology which all share a wide spread consistent melancholy feel. The photographs have deep intrinsic value as they capture the feelings of the under class people and depression of 1980’s Britain.

In Flagrante uses a direct photographic technique and visuals of continual political statements, these photographs are not taken for aesthetic reasons, they were to show real life; encapsulate the emotions of the working-class public, what has happened to their lives, their community. The “real life” visual records of poverty stricken society in the North are extremely hard hitting and are taken from a perspective opposing the government and how they are affected by the new power of the Iron Lady. The book tells a story with each image, of how countless communities were devastated by the deindustrialisation common to policies carried out by Thatcher and her predecessors starting in the mid-1970s.

This book was published and distributed for the world to see, it was well received in 1988 but at that time modern colour photography was proving ever more effective and popular. Perhaps Killip wanted the book or at least some of it’s images be noticed by those in power politically or even Thatcher herself which makes his intentions dangerously controversial. Gerry Badger describes the photographs as “taken from a point of view that opposed everything [Thatcher] stood for”, and the book as “about community”, “a dark, pessimistic journey”.

Angelic Upstarts at a Miners’ Benefit Dance at the Barbary Coast Club, Sunderland, Wearside © Chris Killip, 1984


(direct translation for In Flagante)

Photos of the book I loaned:
























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