Mik Critchlow: Tributes to acclaimed documentary photographer
Tributes have been paid to an acclaimed photographer who was championed as a “working class hero” for documenting everyday life in the North East.
Mik Critchlow was born in Ashington, Northumberland, in 1955 and based himself in the town for a long-term project chronicling social change.
His “ability to connect with people through the camera” won him praise.
His daughter, Shona Brown, said “with great sadness” her father had “passed away peacefully” on his 68th birthday.
Woodhorn Museum in Ashington – where an exhibition of Critchlow’s work is displayed – said staff were “saddened to hear the news of the passing” of the “incredible photographer”.
We are saddened to hear the news of the passing of Mik Critchlow. He was an inspirational photographer with an incredible ability to connect with people through the camera.
‘Last Man Out’ is a particularly special photograph for us, capturing the last shift at Woodhorn Colliery pic.twitter.com/AgEdGop7d2
— Woodhorn Museum (@Woodhorn) March 9, 2023
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The exhibition, called Coal Town, chronicles the colliery and the people who worked there before and after the mine was closed. His grandfather worked there as a miner for 52 years.
Paying tribute, a spokesperson for the museum said: “A proud Ashington lad, he was an inspirational photographer with an incredible ability to connect with people through the camera.
“‘Last Man Out’ is a particularly special photograph for us, capturing the last shift at Woodhorn Colliery.”
Critchlow described the photograph of the colliery deputy George Miller Davison on the final shift at Woodhorn in 1981 as a near happenstance.
He recalled: “I was taking photographs around the mine shaft of the miners coming out from the cages and I was just taking loads and loads of photographs.
“I thought that was the last people out but the shafts man said ‘Well, there’s one more guy coming’. I looked at my camera, and had ran out of film on my 35mm camera and had one shot left.
“I strapped a flash on and this guy came out, and the lead image for the exhibition is the result of the picture.”
The son of a coal miner, Critchlow left school at 15 and, after a variety of jobs, in 1977 enrolled on art course as a mature student.
Shortly after he began taking photographs of his hometown and in 1979 received a grant to produce documentary work in the area.
A book of his work published in 2019, also called Coal Town, became a local history best seller.
In December 2021 Critchlow was appointed a member of the board of trustees for The Ashington Group also known as “The Pitman Painters”.
As a student he had been inspired by the group to document his hometown, using a lens, rather than a paint brush.
Capturing images of the everyday in changing economic times became his life’s work.