Ian Macdonald: Fixing Time

Mon – Sat, 10am – 4pm

Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens

A retrospective exhibition across Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens and Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art exploring 50 years of work by renowned British artist and photographer Ian Macdonald.

Ian Macdonald‘s rich and prolific career spans five decades behind the lens. His photographic journey has been dedicated to documenting life, the evolution of working-class communities, and the rise and fall of industry in Teesside and Cleveland. Macdonald’s extensive body of work aligns with the tradition of British documentary photography that emerged during the mid 1970s and into the 1980s, a period marked by political shifts and social upheaval.

Distinctive in his approach, Macdonald developed a unique style using traditional black-and-white film and print-making techniques. This distinctive aesthetic not only reflects his artistic prowess but also signifies his growing confidence in employing photography as a tool to address the pressing issues observed and lived during that transformative era.

Fixing Time, the first comprehensive retrospective of Macdonald’s oeuvre, unveils the lesser explored yet equally significant facets of his photographic practice. This includes previously unseen portraits captured in secondary schools across England over a span of 35 years. The exhibition also features detailed large-scale drawings – testaments to Macdonald’s skill as a trained draughtsman – which often serve as precursors to his photographic projects. The exhibition incorporates a wealth of photographs, archival materials, publications, and videos, offering a deeper understanding of the “quiet man of British documentary photography” and highlighting Macdonald’s substantial contribution to the realm of British photography.

The exhibition at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens spotlights key photographic series such as Heavy Industry, Smith’s Dock Shipyard, Redcar Blast Furnace and School Portraits. Concurrently, the exhibition at Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art delves into other significant series including The River Tees Estuary, Greatham Creek, and People, Towns and Portraits.

Ian Macdonald’s work has found prominence in numerous exhibitions across the United Kingdom, including prestigious venues such as the Royal Academy, The Photographers Gallery, and the Serpentine Gallery in London. His pieces are held in esteemed public and private art collections globally, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Danish Royal Library in Copenhagen, the Navigation Foundation in Boston, the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol, the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead, and the MIMA Collection in Middlesbrough. Residing in the village of Grosmont in the North York Moors, Ian Macdonald stands as a celebrated figure in the world of contemporary British photography.

Image: Canteen staff catching up on the day at the end of their shift, Redcar blast furnace, Autumn 1983, courtesy of the artist.  

Burdon Road Sunderland SR1 1PP

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20 July 2024—4 January 2025


  • Mon 10am – 4pm
  • Tue 10am – 4pm
  • Wed 10am – 4pm
  • Thu 10am – 4pm
  • Fri 10am – 4pm
  • Sat 10am – 4pm
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