Anna Fox (b. 1961)
A British photographer, academic and curator, Anna Fox is known for her vivid and saturated photographs, primarily in the genre of documentary photography. Her work is characterised by intense colour, an aggressive use of the flash and a frank and uncanny portrayal of the absurd and mysterious in mundane subjects. She is a professor of photography at the University of Creative Arts (UCA) at Farnham, UK, and also leads the research project Fast Forward: Women in Photography along with her mentor Karen Knorr.
Fox, who was born in Alton, Hampshire, pursued her bachelor’s Audio Visual Studies, with a specialisation in photography, at the West Surrey College of Art & Design (now University of Creative Arts), Farnham, from 1983–86. During her studies there, she was tutored by stalwarts of British documentary and fine art photography such as Martin Parr and Paul Graham. During her first visit to India in India in 1985, where she travelled between Agra, New Delhi and Srinagar by bus and train, she captured her observations on the ubiquitous disparities of class and race and the visible temporal contrasts. These early works were exhibited in a series titled Agra and Srinagar, in her first-ever show at the West End Gallery, Aldershot in 1986. She began her career in documentary photography shortly after by chronicling everyday British life and culture. In her series Basingstoke (1985–86), she critiqued the self-advertised idyll of town life in the 1980s through images of its urban landscapes, home interiors, office life and leisure. These were accompanied by quotes from the Basingstoke Gazette that in their displaced context brought out the irony of the mundanity of small town living. Her 1988 series Work Stations, published as a monograph under commission from The Museum of London and Camerawork, was a study of the office culture in London during the Thatcher era. These idioms of everyday life would be reflected in her work throughout the 1980s, making her one of the pioneers of colour documentary photography in Europe. a genre that bridged the established practices of photojournalism, with its emphasis on objective reportage, and editorial photography, with its expanded illustrative and creative potential. The unique position and the novelty of this genre allowed her to navigate the gallery, print and academic networks with ease.
Fox’s projects in the 1990s turned a critical eye on representational practices in photography itself. In her series Back to the Village (1991–92), she showcased the spaces and rituals of rural life in Southern England, attempting to both puncture the fairytale narratives of the media and to reveal the unease and claustrophobia behind the facades. She aims for a similar effect in Friendly Fire (1992), in which young people dressed in khaki and wielding guns are photographed in dramatic imitations of history paintings. Although the scenes depict recreational paintball games taking place in disused army bases, hospitals and farmland, Fox’s images transcend fact to hint at the violence and grandeur of war images emulated in the photographs. Her project Zwarte Piet (1999), documents the Dutch Christmas tradition of Black Pete, the fabled assistant of Saint Nicholas, where women and children are dressed in velvets with their faces blackened. In these series too, she makes a playful but uncomfortable reference to the sixteenth-century legend that arose from the presence of dark-skinned moors in Spanish Netherlands.
Fox began to explore autobiographical themes from the 2000s, with series such as Cockroach Diary (2000), detailing a cockroaches infestation in her shared flat in London, and My Mother’s Cupboards and My Father’s Words (2000), which shows images of her mother’s cupboards. Both works employ text and image, with Cockroach Diary incorporating diary entries and My Mother’s Cupboards interspersing her father’s frequent rants. Fox has also produced collaborative works such as Country Girls (1996–2001) with singer-songwriter Allison Goldfrapp, which revisits the theme of country life, and Pictures of Linda (1983–) with eighties punk-rocker Linda Lunas, a long-term biographical portrait project. Her more recent projects include Splitting (2015) that photographs garish puppets of UK political leaders against bright and harshly lit backdrops and BLINK (2017), a commissioned work that documents the MA showcase by the fashion department of Central St. Martins college, London, .
Fox’s work has featured in several solo and group exhibitions, including the Photographers Gallery, London; the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Tate Modern and Tate Britain, London, amongst others. Her work has also been exhibited in the Tasveer Gallery, Bengaluru, 2010 and at the Chennai Photo Biennale, 2019 in India. Her honours, among others, include being shortlisted for the prestigious Deutsche-Borse and the PIlar Citoler Prizes in 2010 and 2012, respectively.
Fox’s work in India has also extended to helping develop the Photography programme at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and to consultancy and visiting professorships at Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bengaluru, and the One School, Goa. At the time of writing, Fox is working on a project in collaboration with Chinar Shah to showcase the lives of women in India.
As of writing, she lives and works in Farnham, UK.
Anna Fox. “About.” Anna Fox. Accessed April 29, 2021.
British Photography The Hyman Collection. “Anna Fox.” Artists. Accessed April 29, 2021. http://www.britishphotography.org/artists/15795/statement/anna-fox
Fano, Niccolò. “An Interview with Anna Fox.” AMERICAN SUBURB X. June 4, 2013. https://americansuburbx.com/2013/06/interview-anna-fox-asx-interviews-anna-fox-2013.html
Fox, Anna. “Anna Fox in conversation with Karen Knorr – published in new Knorr catalogue for Tasveer Arts exhibition, Bangalore.” Email interview by Karen Knorr. Anna Fox, August 31, 2010. https://annafox.co.uk/anna-fox-in-conversation-with-karen-knorr-published-in-new-knorr-catalogue-for-tasveer-arts-exhibition-bangalore/
“Interview with Anna Fox.” Interview by Tony Cearns. Look/17: Liverpool International Photography Festival (blog), April 29, 2015. https://lookphotofestivalblog.wordpress.com/2015/04/29/interview-with-anna-fox/
James Hyman Gallery. “Anna Fox.” Accessed April 29, 2021. http://www.jameshymangallery.com/artists/15795/biography/anna-fox
Lazarus, Susanna Myrtle. “Anna Fox: Capturing the ordinary.” The Hindu. February 24, 2019. https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/anna-fox-capturing-the-ordinary/article26153268.ece
O’Hagan, Sean. “Anna Fox: Photographs 1983–2007 review — the many faces of middle England.” The Guardian, August 10, 2014. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/aug/10/anna-fox-photographs-1983-2007-review-faces-middle-england
Williams, Val. ed. Anna Fox: Photographs 1983 – 2007. Brighton: Photoworks, 2007.
“Workstations: Office Life in London (1987) by Anna Fox. field grey (blog), September 29, 2015. http://field-grey.com/blog/work-stations-office-life-in-london-1988-by-anna-fox/