Chris Steele-Perkins: The Pleasure Principle

5 NOV — 23 DEC 2011

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and admirers at Conservative Party Conference. From The Pleasure Principle, 1989 © Chris Steele-Perkins.Photo-opportunity during Territorial Army exercise. From The Pleasure Principle, 1989 © Chris Steele-Perkins.Blackpool beach. From The Pleasure Principle, 1989 © Chris Steele-Perkins.Hypnosis demonstration, Cambridge University Ball. From The Pleasure Principle, 1989 © Chris Steele-Perkins.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and admirers at Conservative Party Conference. From The Pleasure Principle, 1989 © Chris Steele-Perkins.

“England is a strange place – funny, complex and sad. Distance yourself from it, experience other cultures, then look again. That strangeness becomes almost overwhelming.” Chris Steele-Perkins

The Pleasure Principle is a powerful and searching photographic portrait of England in the 1980s. Chris Steele-Perkins records the rapidly changing social landscape that he found after returning from extensive travels in the third world. Using ideas of pleasure he explores public rituals that cut across class and location. The result is familiar yet disturbing.

Steele-Perkins also explores his complex relationship with the country he’d grown up in but had never fully felt part of. His father was English, a military officer who abandoned his Burmese mother and brought him back to England at an early age. In his introduction to his 1989 book of The Pleasure Principle he wrote “I suppose that if you are not entirely white, you are never entirely British”.

Steele-Perkins moved from Rangoon to London with his father in 1949. He studied psychology at Newcastle University (1967-70) before moving to London in 1971 where he worked as a freelance photographer. He worked extensively in Britain and abroad throughout the 1970s, and in 1979 published his first book, The Teds. He joined Magnum in the same year and began working on projects in the third world. He continues to work on large-scale projects in the UK and abroad.

Chris Steele-Perkins is represented by Magnum Photos, London.