Daisy Sutcliffe is a PhD student at the University of Glasgow interested in UNESCO’s role in the mobilisation of creative practices around naturally designated World Heritage Sites, for example Giant’s Causeway and the Western Caucasus. Her grandmother, Helen Muspratt (1907-2001), was a photographer working in the early-mid 20th century across Europe and features in Franki Raffles: Observing Women at Work, which is open at the Reid Gallery until 27th April 2017. This article was published as part of of the University of Glasgow’s School of Geographical and Environmental Sciences newsletter.
Daisy Sutcliffe attended Franki Raffles, ‘Observing Women at Work’ at the Glasgow School of Art, an exhibition featuring some work by her grandmother, Helen Muspratt. Franki Raffles was a photographer based in Scotland working in the 1970s until her sudden death in 1994 aged 39. Her work documented the lives of women across Scotland and further afield. She was especially interested in Russia where she went for a youth club trip in 1971, and returned several times before her death. Here she found that the communist system worked for women, who, unlike in Scotland (and the UK more widely) at the time, could work on an equal footing to men, choose the work they undertook and be paid equally. Here her interests overlapped with Daisy’s grandmother Helen’s, who following her fledgling interest in communism went there in 1936 aged 29 and documented the lives that she saw including those of women at work. When her work became better known, thanks to the work of Val Williams and her 1980s television series about five women photographers of the twentieth Century, she claimed to find feminism bemusing. Helen was a remarkable woman, dropping her documentary and experimental practice a few years later when her first child was born so that her husband Jack Dunman could work for the Communist Party whilst she supported their growing family. Of note in both their work was the lack of objectification of the photographs’ subjects. This remained important to Raffles. Muspratt went on to specialise in portraiture and weddings, always trying to balance the human element with the frame and composition. The title of the book about her life, Face, Shape and Angle was her description of this. Daisy’s PhD, which includes a practice-based element, takes inspiration from this visual interplay of object and subject and record of visceral encounter.
Photograph: Helen Muspratt, 1936 Women at work in the USSR
From Sutcliffe, J. (2016) Face, Shape and Angle: Helen Muspratt Photographer. Manchester University Press