The Big Society - The Open College of the Arts
Explore #WeAreOCA
Skip Navigation

The Big Society


Si Barber’s work ‘The Big Society‘ is currently on show at Bank Street Arts in Sheffield until 13 January. Mark and I went to talk to him about how he became a professional photographer, how he makes ends meet and the four year project which was to become ‘The Big Society’. Si was both generous with his time and frank about the doubts he still has about his practice. Click below to listen.
OCA Si Barber Interview
There will be a two hour study visit to Bank Street Arts on 7 January at 11am. Students will get the chance to see the work and discuss some of Si’s thoughts that we haven’t been able to include in the interview above. Places on the visit are free, to reserve a place email enquiries@oca-uk.com


Posted by author: Genevieve Sioka
Share this post:

12 thoughts on “The Big Society

  • Coca is best known throughout the world because of its alkaloids, which include cocaine, a powerful stimulant. Source Wikipedia
    Strong link there also and a perfectly placed bowl.

  • Well spotted John -I hadn’t noticed but it is obvious when pointed out. One of the things I liked about a couple of Si’s photos in the show was the way he had picked up on signs and other text to humourous or other effect.

    • Just taken time to view this truly inspirational photography. I’m not sure that “Dave” will have acknowledged Si’s donation, but it is interesting that the title “Big Society”, Cameron’s paean bring us all together, was probably a direct reference to Thatcher’s denial of society – “There is no such thing as society, we are all individuals” which is of course a central dialectical thread of Marxism. Looking forward to receiving his book.

  • Update: Andrew Conroy, Photography Curator at Bank Street Arts has agreed to join us for the study visit.
    Also, on the day we may follow the visit to another public photography exhibition also running in Sheffield – Tarnished Earth

  • Both look like really interesting exhibitions. I doubt that I’ll be able to make the trip to Sheffield at that time but am sure that all who do will get a lot out of it.
    I think that Si articulates very well the dilemma that many documentary photographers find themselves in, about where the borderline falls between bearing witness and exploitation.
    Interesting reading of Cameron’s ‘Big Society’.

  • The Co-op showed a film on the tarsands in Canada, to mark the beginning of the exhibition, which was very horrifying, as is the photographic display. No wonder Canada was desperate to pull out of any greenhouse gas emission treaty, as they will be pumping it out like mad with all this extraction, but there is some tiny hope of this being successfully challenged

    • Very good conversation at the exhibition – good to meet fellow strugglers and those who are confidently further on. Well constructed visit and contrast with the open air exhib.

  • A really inspiring day, thanks to Gareth and Andrew for organising it. I emailed Si after the show and asked a couple of quick questions that were aired and he said:
    “The crackpipe pic was originally shot upright/vertical, but in the book I would have had to reduce it’s size by about half to fit it on the page – thereby reducing it’s impact. Consequently I flipped it onto it’s side.
    The shot in the exhibition is displayed the way it was taken.
    The pics in the book have a fine black line at the edge so as to delineate them from the white paper where the edge of the image is also white. It’s purely a design issue and just a preference for me.”
    I spent the best part of the rail journey home writing up my notes and will post it soon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to blog listings