Portfolio A Belief In Design
And A Love Of Photography

From Mass Observation to MassCommunication

York Races - Andrew Butler

York Races - Andrew Butler

The Limited Company behind Design Credo is called MassCommunication. It is called this primarily because the core business that we are involved in is communication. It is a name that I first coined at least 15 years ago. However, it would be unfair of me not to acknowledge the influence that a much earlier initiative had on me: that initiative was called Mass Observation.

Mass-Observation was a large-scale investigation into the habits and customs of the people of Britain that was started in Bolton in 1937. Bolton was named “Worktown” by Tom Harrisson.

The project focused on Bolton initially and during the Second World War was enlisted by the Government to monitor public morale in the population as a whole. The project still exists today and the archive is currently held at the University of Sussex.

The founders of Mass-Observation were: Tom Harrisson, an anthropologist who had made a name for himself studying cannibals in the New Hebrides; Charles Madge, at the time a promising poet and a member of a London based artists movement called the Blackheath group; Humphrey Jennings, an artist, poet, historian, translator and film-maker. Also a member of the Blackheath group. Jennings became widely known for the influential war documentaries he made after he left the Mass-Observation.

Humphrey Spender

Pub - Humphrey Spender

Pub - Humphrey Spender

I first became aware of Mass Observation through a book of photos by Humphrey Spender borrowed from Huddersfield library. Humphrey Spender’s images moved me greatly and the notion of recording everyday existence for no reason other than the record appealed greatly: it still does.

For me this period was one where the photographic connection with the ’30s hadn’t been fully broken, black and white photography was still easy to be involved in, it still is a form that I love: André Kertész, Edward Weston, Henri Cartier-Bresson, how long would you like the list to be?

Life In A Day

In this YouTube clip Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald visits the Mass Observation Archive to talk about the inspiration behind Life In A Day.

Life In A Day is a historic global experiment to create the world’s largest user-generated feature film: a documentary, shot in a single day, by you. On July 24, you have 24 hours to capture a glimpse of your life on camera. The most compelling and distinctive footage will be edited into an experimental documentary film, executive produced by Ridley Scott and directed by Kevin Macdonald.



I am a relative newcomer to writing blogs. I’m sure many people who know people who blog but don’t really get it: why spend so much time doing that, who’s going to read it anyway?

I think there is a thread that runs through all of this, from the black and white image that I took of York races that was inspired by my admiration of Mass Observation and Humphrey Spender to this WordPress blog. Expressing communicating, sharing that’s all but that’s enough.

You don’t have to read it, but thanks if you have.

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