We are very sorry to hear of the passing of Mik Critchlow on the afternoon of his 68th birthday. As our mark of respect to Mik and the incredible body of work he has left us with here is the audio contribution he sent us for inclusion in Episode 162 of our A Photographic Life podcast explaining what photography meant to him. Rest in power Mik.
Mik Critchlow was a social documentary photographer based in the North East of England who worked on long term community-based projects for over forty years. The son of a miner, he has worked within the community with a deep-rooted empathy for the townsfolk, and the area he documents. Critchlow left high school in 1970 at the age of 15 years without academic qualifications and went straight into the workplace two days after leaving school, gaining full-time employment as a tailor’s trimmer at a local clothing factory. From there, he went straight into the Merchant Navy as a cabin boy and worked his way through the ranks to become a Steward/Cook, whilst being active within the National Union of Seamen. In 1977, he enrolled on a two-year course at his local College studying Art History and Graphic design as a mature student, it was while at college that he picked up a camera for the first time and immediately fell in love with the medium and process of photography. On seeing an exhibition of paintings by the ‘Pitmen Painters’, he realised the value of art as a social document and in the same year, he began a long-term photography project which documented his home-town of Ashington, Northumberland. In 1979 he received grant funding from Northern Arts (Arts Council of England) to produce documentary photography work in the area. In 1980 he was commissioned by Side Gallery, Newcastle and was introduced to fellow photographers Chris Killip, Graham Smith and Sirkka Liisa Konttinen, who were also producing long term projects on the working class communities of the North East of England. For the past 42 years, Critchlow has photographed the town, people and surrounding areas of Ashington, the town in which he was born, educated and lived. His work is held in public and private collections and has been exhibited widely. A book of his work Coal Town was published in 2019. www.mikcritchlow.com
© Grant Scott 2023