British, 20th century, female.
Born 1934, in London; died 1992, in London.
Photographer, activist, educator.
Jo Spence left school at the age of 13 and enrolled in secretarial college. It was her secretarial position at the small commercial photographers Photo Coverage that first ignited her passion for the medium. Spence subsequently completed a training course at Kodak and gained experience through a number of support roles for photographers including Walter Curtin. From humble beginnings she became a highly vocal, radical, and influential figure in photography. Throughout her life Spence was also active as a writer, activist, and educator and preferred to be known as a ‘cultural sniper’. Throughout her career Spence made contributions to a huge range of genres and inspired other artists to rethink the portrayal of sexuality, family, and class through the photographic image.
In 1967, Spence opened her own photographic portrait studio in Hampstead specializing in weddings and family portraits and creating portfolios for professional use. In the early 1970s, Spence became involved with the Children’s Rights Workshop, through which she began to challenge the conventions associated with photographing children in domestic photography. During this time she met photographer Terry Dennett who would become her partner and a long-term collaborator. Together they documented marginalized communities such as the Traveller community living under the Westway Bridge in west London....