Christopher David Killip was born in Douglas, Isle of Man and in 1964 moved to London where he worked as an assistant to the advertising photographer Adrian Flowers. He soon went freelance, but in 1969 stopped his commercial work to concentrate on the photography that he wanted to do. In 1969 he moved back to the Isle of Man, photographing it extensively. The work from this time was eventually published by the Arts Council as Isle of Man: A Book about the Manx in 1980. In 1974 he was commissioned to photograph Bury St Edmunds and Huddersfield, and in 1975 he won a two-year fellowship from Northern Arts to photograph the northeast of England; Creative Camera devoted its entire May 1977 issue to this work
Killip is well known for his gritty black and white images of people and place. In 1977 he became a founder, exhibition curator, and advisor at the Side Gallery, Newcastle, and worked as its director for 18 months. He produced a body of work from his photographs in the northeast of England, published in 1988 as In Flagrante. These black and white images, mostly made on 4×5 film, are now recognised as among the most important visual records of living in 1980s Britain. Gerry Badger describes the photographs as "taken from a point of view that opposed everything [Thatcher] stood for", and the book as "about community", "a dark, pessimistic journey".
The book In Flagrante was well received on its publication in 1988, but Killip's kind of black and white documentation of the underclass was going out of fashion quickly in Britain, as photographers used color to show consumerism and for consciously and explicitly artistic purposes. In Flagrante was reproduced in February 2009 within one of Errata Editions' "Books on Books". In a review of this reproduction, Robert Ayers describes the original as "one of the greatest photography books ever published".
In 1988 Killip was commissioned by Pirelli U.K. which thought that he might photograph its tire factory in Burton; agreement on this was reached in April the next year, whereupon Killip started work. Attempting to use available light in a darkened factory in which work was done on a black product, he was at first unsuccessful, but in June he switched to flash and a large-format camera and photographed for three more months. The resulting work was exhibited in the Victoria and Albert Museum (London) in September 1989; it was published in book form by Ute Eskildsen/Steidl in 2007.
From 1992 until 2004, Killip photographed pilgrimages and other scenes in rural Ireland; the result was published in 2009 by Thames & Hudson as Here Comes Everybody.
Killip is the recipient of numerous awards, including the second Henri Cartier-Bresson Award (for In Flagrante). He has exhibited all over the world, written extensively, appeared on radio and television, and has curated many exhibitions.
Exhibitions by Killip
- "Seacoal", Side Gallery (Newcastle) and subsequent tour, 1984
- "Another Country", Serpentine Gallery (London). Photographs of northeast England by Killip and Graham Smith, 1985
- Art Institute of Chicago, 1986
- "In Flagrante", Victoria and Albert Museum (London) and subsequent tour of Europe, 1988
- "Working at Pirelli", Victoria and Albert Museum (London), 1990
- "Chris Killip Retrospective", Palais de Tokyo (Paris), 1991
- "The Last Art Show", Jarrow Bede Gallery (Jarrow), 1996. Photographs of Jarrow.
- "Chris Killip Photographs 1971-96", Manx Museum (Douglas) 1997
- "Chris Killip: Sixty Photographs", Old Post Office (Berlin), 2000
- "Les rencontres d'Arles" festival, France.
Selected joint exhibitions
- "No Such Thing as Society: Photography in Britain 1968–1987", Hayward Gallery (London), Ujazdów Castle (Warsaw), Tullie House (Carlisle) and Aberystwyth Arts Centre (Aberystwyth)
- "Facts of Life / British Documentary Photography". Photomonth, National Museum, Kraków, August–November 2010. British photography 1974–1997.
Major publications by Killip
- The Isle of Man. New York: Witkin Gallery, 1973. Portfolio.
- "Chris Killip Photographs 1975–1976 in the North East". Creative Camera, May 1977.
- Isle of Man: A Book about the Manx. London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1980. (Distributed by Zwemmer.) ISBN 0-7287-0187-1 (hardback); ISBN 0-7287-0186-3 (paperback). With text by Killip and John Berger and quotations from various older sources.
- In Flagrante. London: Secker & Warburg, 1988. ISBN 0-436-23358-4 (hardback); ISBN 0-436-23356-8 (paperback). Text by John Berger and Sylvia Grant.
- Vague à l'âme. Paris: Nathan, 1988. Text in French.
- Chris Killip 55. London: Phaidon, 2001. ISBN 0-7148-4028-9. Text by Gerry Badger.
- Pirelli Work. Göttingen: Steidl, 2007. ISBN 3-86521-317-0.
- Chris Killip: In Flagrante. Books on Books 4. Errata Editions, 2009. ISBN 978-1-935004-06-6. Reduced-size facsimile of the book of 1988, with an essay by Gerry Badger.
- Here Comes Everybody: Chris Killip's Irish Photographs. London: Thames & Hudson, 2009. ISBN 978-0-500-54365-8.
- Seacoal. Göttingen: Steidl, 2011. ISBN 3-86930-256-9.
- Arbeit / Work. Essen: Museum Folkwang; Göttingen: Steidl, 2012. ISBN 978-3-86930-457-1. Text in German and English.
Other books with work by Killip
- Mellor, David Alan. No Such Thing as Society: Photography in Britain 1967–1987: From the Arts Council Collection and the British Council Collection. London: Hayward, 2007. ISBN 978-1-85332-265-5
- Martin Parr and Gerry Badger, The Photobook: A History, vol. 2 (London: Phaidon, 2006; ISBN 0-7148-4433-0), 299.
- Clive Dilnot, "Chris Killip's Portraits of the Pirelli Workforce", Pirelli Work, pp. 65–85.
- Robert Ayers, "One of the greatest photography books ever published - Chris Killip's In Flagrante", askyfilledwithshootingstars.com. Accessed 8 September 2009.
- The book: Pirelli Work. Account of the photography: Killip, "What Happened", Pirelli Work, pp. 62–63.
- Liz Jobey, "Photographer Chris Killip: return to a ritual landscape", The Guardian, 20 April 2009. Accessed 19 September 2009.
- Justin Carville, "Chris Killip", Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century Photography, ed. Lynne Warren (New York: Routledge, 2006; ISBN 1-57958-393-8).
- Chronology in Chris Killip 55, pp. 126–27.
- "Exhibition: No Such Thing as Society: Photography in Britain 1968–1987", British Council. Accessed 22 February 2008.
- Simon Bainbridge, "Brits Abroad", British Journal of Photography, 13 August 2010. "British Documentary Photography", Photomonth Kraków. Both accessed 25 February 2011.
- Killip at Visual and Environmental Studies, Harvard University
- ULAN entry for Killip
- Killip's photographs in the [British] Government Art Collection, Department of Culture, Media and Sport
- Pirelli Work, publisher's page.
- Chris Killip's personal website