Charlene Heath is the archives assistant at the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) in Toronto and a doctoral candidate in the joint program in Communication and Culture at Ryerson/York University in Toronto. She holds a MA in Photographic Preservation from Ryerson in collaboration with the Eastman Museum in Rochester, USA. Through an analysis of the now dispersed Jo Spence Memorial Archive, her forthcoming dissertation considers the enduring legacy of political photographic practice in Britain in the 1970s and ’80s.
Fully comprehending British feminist photographer Jo Spence’s work is synonymous with understanding her memorial archive in its present fractured form. Considering this, Heath’s article chronicles three aspects of Spence’s work: first, it accounts for what made her practice radical—how she borrowed from the worker photography movement of the 1920s and ’30s to situate her work between the realms of socialist-feminist activism and art. This article is also a survey of her most productive years in the 1970s and ’80s, including the management of her memorial archive in the years following her death in 1992. By tracing the echoes of her radical work, it ultimately demonstrates how the over one-hundred high-quality colour photocopies, consumerlevel digital printouts, and digital files now in the collection at Ryerson University’s Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto, Canada function as extensions of Spence’s polemic.
Keywords: Jo Spence, feminism, worker photography, archives, photocopy