The early vision of Philip Jones Griffiths

Before becoming the world's most fêted war photographer, Philip Jones Griffiths trained his lens on Britain's 1960s revolution.

The photographer Philip Jones Griffiths spent the last days of his life in front of a computer in his hospital room obsessively working on what he knew would be his final book of photographs. Recollections is a collection of images from the early years of his career when he still lived in this country, before he joined Magnum and became the definitive photographer of the Vietnam War. Jones Griffiths was president of Magnum from 1980 to 1985.

The photographs in Recollection are of British celebrities, politicians and ordinary people going about their daily lives. They document the birth of popular culture and the sexual revolution. He photographed The Beatles playing their first concert at the Empire in Liverpool in 1963 and there's a photograph of Ringo Starr wearing his shirt with no trousers as he nonchalantly signs an autograph for a female fan.

At the Beaulieu Jazz Festival in 1961, a young couple lie entwined on the grass. To one side, a matronly woman purses her lips disapprovingly at this spectacle of intimacy. It's a wonderful photograph that captures a definitive moment in our history. You can see the change and how liberated young people felt, as well as the bewilderment of the older generation. There is humour and celebrity. In 1960, British comic Norman Wisdom stands off-stage as a bucket of water is poured over him while he is fully clothed, wearing a three-piece suit.

Bob Hope and Laurence Olivier dance together on stage at the London's Palladium Theatre in 1959 and there's a young Tony Benn in 1962, posing on the bank of the Thames with the Houses of Parliament as a backdrop. There is a photograph of uniformed nannies leaning on old fashioned perambulators as they hang around outside Number 10 chatting up the policemen. It's enough to bring a tear of nostalgia to the eye.

Aside from politicians and pop stars, not everyone in Britain was enjoying the benefits of the time. Jones Griffiths never shied from the complexities of story telling and there are multiple layers to his pictures. His reputation was built on his search for truth: political and photographic. He did not crop images or set up shots and he believed there was only only one chance to get it right.

Jones Griffiths shows the grinding poverty faced by so many people in Britain. There are photographs from Liverpool of children in the 1960s. The streets are shabby and the children look grubby.

Jones Griffiths captured dignity in even the most dire of situations: in war, poverty and political strife. He was remarkably perceptive, which gave him an ability to capture the subtle nuances of emotion on the face of his subject. There are two London children photographed in 1961 and Jones Griffiths writes about self-esteem and how it could be seen on the face of the little girl he photographed but not on that of her young brother, who is still unsure of himself.

Jones Griffiths was a political being and his best work combines emotion with political issues. Born in the Welsh town of Rhuddlan in 1935, he remained an ardent socialist and Welsh nationalist for all of his life. There are photographs of Welsh miners whom he described as the "kings of the working class". And Jones Griffiths's language is that of the class warrior. He believed that his empathy with societies under foreign occupation came from his experience as a Welshman, living under the colonisation of his country by the English. This keen sense of injustice drove him to return to Vietnam, where he photographed the war and the aftermath of the American invasion. Henri Cartier Bresson said of his photographs: "Not since Goya has anyone portrayed war like Philip Jones Griffiths."

Recollections includes photographs of the war in Northern Ireland, which he covered during the 1970s. He photographed the remarkable incongruities of daily life in an urban war zone. A woman mows her lawn in 1973 while a British soldier crouches in the corner of her garden with his rifle raised to his shoulder.

There is a vast archive of Jones Griffiths's work which forms a visual record of the past 50 years. Recollections is a small proportion of this, but no less fascinating for it.



An exhibition of photographs from 'Recollections' is at the National Conservation Centre in Liverpool. It will then tour to the Side Gallery, Newcastle, 14 March to 2 May and Bodelwyddan Castle, Wales, 2 May to mid July. 'Recollections' by Philip Jones Griffiths is published by Trolley books ( www.trolleybooks.com)

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...