Benny Profane

Research output: Book/ReportBook


In the early 1990s, the MP for Birkenhead Frank Field was amongst the first in Britain to use the term Underclass to talk about a former working class culture that no longer had access to the routines and etiquette those opportunities suggested. The work, made in the same area, is a study that looks at the community cohesion that exists in areas often exoticised and dehumanised in documentary and journalistic accounts. For nearly a decade, Ken Grant photographed a group of men women and children who lived near the extensive dockland complex on the East Wirral side of the river Mersey. This longterm engagement followed their use of the dockland and the Bidston Moss incinerator and the tip for economic support and sustainability. The photographs of this area are singular in their consistent engagement of one space and differ in their account from previous works made in the area. The use of written text, coupled with the photographs is a significant departure from the more discredited conventions of documentary practices and the book, in its structure and integration of text progresses a narrative that distinguishes itself as a piece of work about the integrity within non-working class culture. It is an immersed and unique engagement with a group of men who used the area as an unofficial and unsanctioned resource. The work is a significant contribution to the understanding of 'black economies' and the urgent methods of making money in communities with long term isolation from more foregrounded patterns of work and integration. It is also an extension of Grant’s research into the close networks of trust and community amongst working and post-working class districts in the North of England. Most notable is its attention to the integrity of those included in the series and the avoidance of victimisation or demeaning strategies commonly employed in documentary work.
The photographs Grant has made employ sequence and structure to convey the changes to the body and the territory over the decades following the decline of traditional industries in the region. Coinciding with the closure of the Thatcher political era, the work takes this as it’s starting point, but extends as an account of a region a region disenfranchised not simply by British policies, but by the uncertain economies and casualism that have prevailed in the region for much of the 20th century and remain today.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBristol
PublisherRRB Publishing
Number of pages88
ISBN (Print)978-1-9997275-3-6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


  • Photography and class
  • dockland communities
  • north of England
  • photography and communities
  • working class culture
  • black economies
  • Documentary photography
  • Storytelling
  • Representation
  • representations of young men
  • Recession
  • representation and the underclass

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    Grant, K. (2019). Benny Profane. (1 ed.) RRB Publishing.