Back to Members

Jo Spence
(1934 — 1992)

Jo Spence was a British photographer. Born in London in 1934, Spence initially worked as a writer before pursuing a career as a wedding photographer. In 1967, Spence opened a studio which she worked from, primarily on commercial projects, until 1974. In the following years, Spence began to explore documentary photography in order to more accurately represent her own political concerns. Rather than interact with her surroundings as a passive social documentary photographer, Spence adopted a more interrogative style of capturing her subjects. In response to her political leanings of the late 1970s the artist co-founded the Photography Workshop and the Hackney Flashers, an artistic collective of socialist and feminist women seeking to convey their political motivations through their artwork. In 1979 Spence began to study photography more seriously, undertaking courses in more traditional approaches to theory and practice at the Polytechnic of Central London. Following her graduation the artist’s attitude to the medium began to change, both in terms of composition and subject matter.


The artist participated in her first significant exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, London in 1979. Though still sociological in many respects, in the 1980s Spence’s work began to move away from the overtly political themes of her earlier career in favour of exploring questions of domesticity and identity within modern society in her photography. In the later stages of her career, Spence began to focus her work on representing issues of both mental and physical health in response to her own diagnosis with breast cancer and later leukaemia. The artist died in 1992.