BEING THERE Photographs 1968 ~ 1990
In this retrospective, the Coningsby Gallery showed four decades of photographer Michael Bennett’s rich & varied early work.
The Family: (1975, in the collection of V&A Museum), wry, intimate portrait of Bennett’s own family.
People Doing Things: (1977 ~ present day): chronicles the most mundane details of everyday life.
1970’s America: impressions of the the east and west coasts in evocative monochrome.
Pier Closing Time: ill-fated but later celebrated lament for neglected coastal North Wales. (1979).

October 2023
Santa Monica, 1978

In 1978, I visited my brother, a musician, at the time living in Beverley Hills. I made the mistake of trying to walk around with my camera, but didn't find too many people to photograph. My brother explained that nobody walks in Beveley Hills. So I took a bus to Santa Monica, finding dozens of rollerskaters enjoying the promenade. 
Lower East Side, New York, 1977
I'd just arrived from London on a work trip, my first to the United States, on a hot humid day in July 1977. From the rear window of the apartment, I saw a woman taking in washing. I managed to shoot just two frames, neither of which I was able to print sucessfully. 40 years later, the image was digitised and restored.
Hastings, 1977
On the promenade at Hastings, East Sussex, in the summer of 1977. From the series: People Doing Things.
Lexington Avenue, New York
Taken on a hot evening in July 1977. The tall building  is the Citigroup Center, between Lexington Avenue and Third Avenue, built in 1977 to house the headquarters of Citibank. At 915 feet (279 m) tall, it is one of the ten tallest skyscrapers in New York.
About To Order A Cheese Sandwich, St Leonards-On-Sea, 1977
Seen in 1977 in a cafe in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex. This couple were just about to order from an approaching waitress. From the series: People Doing Things.
In a Dundee Bar, 1974

A couple in Mennie's Bar, Dundee,  1974. From the series: People Doing Things.
Park Avenue, New York, 1977
Close to the Waldorf Astoria, looking south-west on Park Avenue, towards what is now the MetLife building. In 1977 it was the headquarters of Pan American World Airways.
Lower East Side, New York City, 1977
Beverley Hills, 1978

Lower East Side, New York, 1977

Los Angeles, 1978

Lexington Avenue
Subway station, 1977
Los Angeles, 1978

14th St Subway, New York City, 1977

John & Yoko's Skywriting, 1977
John Lennon and Yoko Ono hired planes on a number of occasions to write messages in the sky to New Yorkers. This one read: "We Love You, John & Yoko"
Uncle Cyril Arriving For Tea, 1975
My uncle Cyril arriving at our house for tea one afternoon in 1975, with flowers and vegetables from his garden for my mother on the back of his motorbike. From the series: The Family, in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum. ​​​​​​​
Self-portrait aged fourteen, 1968
In the mid-1960's, my father showed me the rudiments of photography. We processed film and tiny contact prints in the cellar, surrounded by coal and pickled eggs. The following year, I started a paper round so that I could save for a camera. This early self-portrait was taken with a bedside light in one hand, the camera in the other. With an ambition was to be an astronomer, I attached a camera to my telescope, succeeding in taking some (blurry) pictures of the moon. Some years later I made a sandwich of negatives to print as one.
From the series: The Family, in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Lower East Side, New York, 1977

It was my first visit to the United States. I had a portrait to take, on commission for a magazine. The rest of time I could shoot whatever I liked. This brownstone block was close to where I was staying on the Lower East Side.
World Trade Center Plaza, New York, 1977

Looking up at the base of Manhattan's twin towers in the summer of 1977, I'd never seen buildings as tall. Framing a tower to one side, I wanted to emphasize the fragility of the trees next to the huge mass of glass and concrete. I visited the observation deck. Up there, the tower was swaying in the wind by half a metre. The view from the top was breathtaking.
Porthmadog, 1979
From Pier Closing Time, Michael Bennett’s 1979 photographic journey through North Wales, a portrait of seaside resorts in and out of season. People taking pictures of the annual Porthmadog pram race: men dressed as babies were raced around the town centre for charity.
Colwyn Bay, 1979
From Pier Closing Time, bus station in the winter of 1979. Was shown in "Seaside Photographed," at The Turner Contemporary, Margate (2019).
Caernarfon, 1979
From Pier Closing Time, Caernarfon in the winter of 1979. Included in "Seaside Photographed," at The Turner Contemporary, Margate (2019).
Towyn, 1979
From Pier Closing Time, Towyn seafront in the summer of 1979. Included in "Seaside Photographed," at The Turner Contemporary, Margate (2019).
Llandudno, 1979
From Pier Closing Time, Llandudno seafront at closing time, in 1979. Included in "Seaside Photographed," at The Turner Contemporary, Margate (2019).
Rhyl, 1979
From Pier Closing Time. A warm afternoon on Rhyl seafront in 1979. 
Butlins, Pwhelli, 1979
From Pier Closing Time, two men, probably arriving, at Butlins Holiday Camp, Pwhelli, in 1979.
Beach Shelter, Rhyl,  Night, 1979
From Pier Closing Time, the seafront on a summer's evening in Ryhl, North Wales. 
Platelayer, Mostyn, 1979
The workman knelt down close to the line then laid his head on the rail. He stayed motionless, appearing to wait for something to happen. There seemed no explanation. 
I’d been been slowly working my way west from Connah’s Quay just over the English border, trying and mostly failing to find anything or anyone interesting enough to photograph on the north Wales coast. It was a wintry day in early 1979, grey and overcast. A railway line runs close to the sea, and I was leaning over the parapet of a bridge.
A small group of men was gathered around the track some distance away. One was hitting the rail with a sledgehammer.
I realised what they were doing. The job of the one beneath me was to listen to the hammer blows. From the quality of the sound he was hearing, the rail was either good or needed repair. I took four photographs.
From Pier Closing Time. Collection of The V&A Museum, London.
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