pharmacy c 1971. This resulted in obtaining the lease for 39a Shambles. (Val Williams Archive/Library of Birmingham)” width=”1000″ height=”1000″ /> Small ad placed by Andrew Sproxton and Val Williams in the Yorkshire Evening Press, cialis c 1971. This resulted in obtaining the lease for 39a Shambles.
(Val Williams Archive/Library of Birmingham)
In 1972, Val Williams and Andrew Sproxton, who had recently graduated from the University of Kent, opened the Impressions Gallery in a corridor of a building in Clifford Street, York. They rented the space from a local craftsman, and the first exhibition was a touring show of the work of Swiss photojournalist Werner Bischof. After a few months, Val and Andrew moved the gallery to 39a the Shambles, five rooms on the first and second floor, with access via a back door, which led onto York Market. They bought a converted ambulance, to live in and when it got too cold to live in the van, slept in the upper rooms of the gallery with a Baby Belling cooker and two camp beds. There was no bathroom.
Andrew Sproxton (left) and Martin Parr at the opening of Home Sweet Home in 1974. Photographer Unknown. (Val Williams Archive/Library of Birmingham)
Val Williams and the late Leo Stable (the Photography Gallery, Southampton) in conversation at Impressions c. 1975
Frank Meadow Sutcliffe: A Prospect of Whitby, the first exhibition at 39a Shambles.
(Val Williams Archive/Library of Birmingham)
Alongside the gallery, Val and Andrew ran Impressions Workshop, a small printing business, producing mainly wedding invitations and Christmas cards. They also photographed some York weddings, including the Fishergate Fish and Chip shop wedding, for which they produced a set of handmade albums. Income from the Fishergate wedding kept them and the gallery afloat for a year, after which (in around 1973) they began to receive funding from the Yorkshire Arts Association, eventually becoming a funded client of the Arts Council of Great Britain.
Press coverage in the Yorkshire Evening Press after the move to Colliergate
Press coverage for the opening of the new gallery at 17 Colliergate. Pictured is Jeanette Siddall, the gallery’s first assistant, who later became Dance Officer of the Arts Council, and was awarded the CBE for services to dance
Press coverage in the Yorkshire Evening Press, June, 1976. (Val Williams Archive/ Library of Birmingham)
In 1976, the Gallery moved from the Shambles to 17 Colliergate, a former animal feed shop with a magnificent double frontage. In 1977, Andrew Sproxton died, aged 27. Val continued to run the gallery for the last few years of the 1970s and in 1981, moved back to London, where she had two daughters, and worked as an independent curator and writer, based in Bethnal Green, going on to set up the Shoreditch Biennale with Anna Fox, the Oral History of British Photography with the British Library and a number of major international photo shows at museums and galleries in London and the UK.
The Impressions years (from 1972-1981) coincided with (and were part of) the beginnings of independent photography in Britain, the emergence of radical and feminist photography and the resurgence of interest in British photographic history. Through its exhibitions and initiatives, Impressions contributed to the discourses around these areas.
Home Sweet Home, shown at Impressions in 1974. This reinstallation was included in the Martin Parr: Photographic Works at the Barbican Art Gallery, curated by Val Williams in 2002.
An early meeting with Martin Parr and Daniel Meadows, then studying photography at Manchester Polytechnic, led to a relationship which spanned many years, beginning with the Photographs from Butlins Filey show in 1972 and including Parr’s Home Sweet Home in 1976. Exhibitions by British photographers including Peter Mitchell, Roger Perry, Nick Hedges and John Blakemore were part of the 1970s programme, as were pioneering historical shows of work by Cecil Beaton, Angus McBean, Herbert Ponting and Peter Rose Pulham.
Poster for the first exhibition at 39a Shambles. Typeset and printed by Andrew Sproxton on the Impressions press. (Val Williams Archive/Library of Birmingham)
Poster for the first exhibition at 39a Shambles. Photographs of Butlin’s Filey was shown in 1972, alongside Prospect of Whitby by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe. The poster was printed photographically. (Val Williams Archive/Library of Birmingham)
Cover of the catalogue for the Angus McBean retrospective, curated by Val Williams for the Impressions York Festival exhibition, 1976. (Val Williams Archive/Library of Birmingham)
Cover, Cecil Beaton exhibition curated by Andrew Sproxton and Val Williams for the 1973 Impressions York Festival exhibition. (Val Williams Archive/Library of Birmingham)
Front cover of the catalogue for the 1980 John Havinden exhibition, curated by Val Williams and David Mellor. (Val Williams Archive/Library of Birmingham/ Photography and the Archive Research Centre Poster Collection)
Photographers magazine was first published by Impressions in November 1978. Edited by Val Williams it contained features and reviews. The cover photograph, a portrait of photographer Deborah Baker was made for the magazine by Brian Griffin
Invitation to the private view of the Cecil Beaton Impressions York Festival exhibition, June, 1973. The invitation was typeset by Andrew Sproxton and printed by him at the Impressions Workshop
An appeal for old photographs. Typeset by Andrew Sproxton and printed by the Impressions Workshop, c. 1973. (Val Williams Archive/Library of Birmingham)
Photographers magazine, no. 3, April 1979. Edited by Val Williams. (Val Williams Archive/Library of Birmingham)
Impressions in the 70s became a well known venue for photography in the North of England, especially at its Shambles premises, where the monthly private view parties were lively and packed, with mulled wine brewed over the gallery’s open fires in the winter.