Janet Mendelsohn

Went to Birmingham for the day, for a whole-day programme of stimulus and chat, provided for free by Birmingham Unisersity. Grab it now, because the chance may not come again. It was centred on the photographs of Janet Mendelsohn, a young American who came to Birmingham in the sities, and took some wonderful photos of Balsall Heath. i will declare an interest. My son lives in Balsall Heath, and I went there in the sixties, as part of a week's workcamp centred on a housing survey of Varna Road - then famous as "the wickedest street in England" due to its thriving prostitution trade. Janet M become really friendly with one of the working girls, and took a whole series if photos of her, her pimp, her kids, and the surrounding area. They're close, warm portraits, by someone who feels at home and is trusted - not at all a fast raid by an outsider in search of sensations. On top of that, Janet M was friendly with Stuart and Catherine Hall (she gave a lovely brief talk remembering that), who were central to the Birmingham Centre of Cultural studies - community arts, including photography, all sorts of connections - which were also followed up during the day. And when I did my education year in 1966-7, I wrote a long essay about Education and the Mass Media, drawing heavily on the Popular Arts, a book co-written by Stuart Hall. Great photos, politics and art, and a heavy dose of nostalgia - a terrific day.