Anita Corbin: Visible Girls Revisited (3 stars)

Anita Corbin: Visible Girls Revisited

Charlotte Wager (left) and Tessa Morton at Tessa's parents' home in London March 1981

Follow-up exhibition reflects on the position of women then and now

In 1981, Anita Corbin was a young punk photography student at the Polytechnic of Central London. An interest in uniforms led her to think about the fashion 'uniforms' of the day which young women wore, expressing both their own individuality and their membership of a larger, like-minded group.

She created Visible Girls, a series of portraits – many of them double portraits of best friends or lovers – in the pubs and clubs of London: skins, mods, punks, rockabillies, new romantics. Most of them still in their teens, they stare out at us with a mixture of vulnerability and defiance.

36 years after the portraits were taken, Corbin decided to trace as many of the women as she could and photograph them again. Where possible, she has photographed them together in a similar pose, in some cases in exactly the same spot.

This emphasises the similarities more than the differences. While more relaxed and confident in themselves, the older women still bear the marks of their younger selves. Though fashion choices might have mellowed, nonconformity is still widespread: rock band t-shirts have been replaced by 'Refugees welcome' ones.

The women Corbin photographed now live all over the world. Some have proved impossible to trace, others were found via social media (sometimes with the help of their children!). The accompanying book contains interviews with many of them reflecting on the position of women then and now. Of course, much has improved, but there is much still to be done. An exhibition of photographs of young women is still rare – of middle-aged woman, even more so.

What has changed perhaps most of all is our relationship with photography. Now, every moment of life is photographed. Young people form their tribes online, and posting photographs is an important part of that. It's easy to forget how radical, and how affirming, Visible Girls was when it was first made.

Summerhall, until Fri 21 Dec.

Anita Corbin: Visible Girls Revisited

Photographer Anita Corbin took photographs of young woman in different subcultures in Britain in the early 80s, and has traced down as many as possible of the same women to take photographs of them now.

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