The gallery is currently closed. We will re-open with a party to celebrate our new season of exhibitions on Wed., Sept 11, 6–8 pm. Sign up for our mailing list to stay in the loop!

Skip Navigation

Jo Spence Memorial Archive

Jo Spence (British, 1934−1992) was a pivotal figure in the establishment of a post-modern feminist discourse who challenged the dominance of photography-as-high-art in the context of the museum and the art market. Working in London in the 1970s and 1980s as a community-based activist using photography and text as tools for social change, Spence contested the formalist preoccupations of mainstream photographic practice and emphasized a return to documentary. Among her diverse collaborative projects, she is known for politicized self-representations of her struggle with breast cancer, in which she refuses to passively accept the conventions of medical authority and asserts the validity of alternative therapies. In addition to more than 100 largescale prints, the RIC holds a broad range of Spence’s research and preparatory materials, writings and correspondence, videotaped interviews, and other ephemera. The Jo Spence Memorial Archive was donated to the RIC by the artist’s long-time partner and collaborator, Terry Dennett.

Next collection
Previous collection

A series of negatives of people posing.
Fig. 1

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) and Terry Dennett (British, b. 1938 d. 2018), shooting sequence for The Highest Product of Capitalism (After John Heartfield), 1979, from Remodelling Photo History (The History Lesson), 1981–82, gelatin silver contact print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.2000:0001)

Contact sheet called 'Adventure Playground' from 1975.
Fig. 2

Terry Dennett (British, b. 1938 d. 2018), [Untitled], 1973–1975, gelatin silver contact print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.2000:0002)

A series of pictures of faces and masks of faces from a print work book from 1977.
Fig. 3

Faces Group, [Lyn], 1975–1977, work book with gelatin silver prints and masks. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.2000:0003)

Photo of a woman with no shirt standing in a doorway holding a broom.
Fig. 4

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) and Terry Dennett (British, b. 1938 d. 2018), from Remodelling Photo History (The History Lesson), 1981–1982, gelatin silver print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.2017:0001)

The backside of a nude person standing in an electrical field.
Fig. 5

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) and Terry Dennett (British, b. 1938 d. 2018), from Remodelling Photo History (The History Lesson), 1981–1982, gelatin silver print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.2017:0002)

Nude person laying on the ground next to a car with open doors in front of a gated road.
Fig. 6

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) and Terry Dennett (British, b. 1938 d. 2018), from Remodelling Photo History (The History Lesson), 1981–1982, gelatin silver print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.2017:0003)

Man with silly glasses and a silly expression reading a book by Freud.
Fig. 7

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) and Terry Dennett (British, b. 1938 d. 2018), from Remodelling Photo History (The History Lesson), 1981–1982, gelatin silver print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.2017:0004)

Nude photos of body in a 'Body Mind Journal' from 1989.
Fig. 8

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992), [My Body/Mind Journal], 1989, notebook with chromogenic prints. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.3000:0001)

Fig. 9

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992), [My Body/Mind Journal], 1989, notebook with chromogenic prints. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.3000:0001)

Scrapbook with pastel drawing on cover from 1985.
Fig. 10

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992), [Scrapbook], ca. 1987, pastel drawing. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.3000:0002)

Negatives of series work taking pictures of Barbie dolls from 1982.
Fig. 11

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992), [Work with Barbies], 1982-1983, colour transparencies. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.3000:0003)

Series of portraits of mother.
Fig. 12

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) in collaboration with Rosy Martin, Photo Therapy: My Mother ca. 1952, 1985, chromogenic colour print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.3001:0001)

Photo of woman in towel pouring salt from a bag over her head onto her face with an open mouth.
Fig. 13

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) in collaboration with Rosy Martin, Photo Therapy: Work on Emotional Eating, 1984 (printed 1994), chromogenic colour print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.5001:0001))

Photo of woman soaked in red substance covering her face.
Fig. 14

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) in collaboration with Rosy Martin, from Libido Uprising, 1989 (printed 1994), chromogenic colour print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.5001:0002)

Photo of woman slicing bread at a table.
Fig. 15

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) in collaboration with Rosy Martin, Photo Therapy: Early Mother, 1986-88 (printed 1994) chromogenic colour print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.5001:0003)

Woman dressed up as a fairy godmother.
Fig. 16

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992), [Fairy God Mother and business card], 1984-1989 (printed 1994), chromogenic colour print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.5001:0004)

Photo of a vacuum hose wrapped around a woman's leg wearing fishnet stockings and orange heels.
Fig. 17

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) in collaboration with Rosy Martin, from Libido Uprising, 1989 (printed 1994), chromogenic colour print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.5002:0001)

Jo Spence posing with no shirt and wearing a helmet.
Fig. 18

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) in collaboration with Terry Dennett, [Jo Spence wearing a helmet], 1982 (printed 1994), from The Picture of Health?, 1982-86, chromogenic colour print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.5002:0002)

Photo of a woman in a towel with an 'x' over her right breast.
Fig. 19

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) in collaboration with Rosy Martin, Infantilization, 1984 (printed 2010), from The Picture of Health?, 1982-86, inkjet print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.5003:0001)

Two boys holding chickens up to each other as a young boy looks on.
Fig. 20

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) and Terry Dennett (British, b. 1938 d. 2018), from Gypsies and Travellers, 1974, gelatin silver print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2015.2001:0001)

Photo of a swing with two horses on a hill in the background.
Fig. 21

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) and Terry Dennett (British, b. 1938 d. 2018), from Gypsies and Travellers, 1974, gelatin silver print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2015.2001:0002)

A series of negatives of people posing.
Fig. 1

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) and Terry Dennett (British, b. 1938 d. 2018), shooting sequence for The Highest Product of Capitalism (After John Heartfield), 1979, from Remodelling Photo History (The History Lesson), 1981–82, gelatin silver contact print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.2000:0001)

Contact sheet called 'Adventure Playground' from 1975.
Fig. 2

Terry Dennett (British, b. 1938 d. 2018), [Untitled], 1973–1975, gelatin silver contact print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.2000:0002)

A series of pictures of faces and masks of faces from a print work book from 1977.
Fig. 3

Faces Group, [Lyn], 1975–1977, work book with gelatin silver prints and masks. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.2000:0003)

Photo of a woman with no shirt standing in a doorway holding a broom.
Fig. 4

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) and Terry Dennett (British, b. 1938 d. 2018), from Remodelling Photo History (The History Lesson), 1981–1982, gelatin silver print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.2017:0001)

The backside of a nude person standing in an electrical field.
Fig. 5

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) and Terry Dennett (British, b. 1938 d. 2018), from Remodelling Photo History (The History Lesson), 1981–1982, gelatin silver print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.2017:0002)

Nude person laying on the ground next to a car with open doors in front of a gated road.
Fig. 6

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) and Terry Dennett (British, b. 1938 d. 2018), from Remodelling Photo History (The History Lesson), 1981–1982, gelatin silver print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.2017:0003)

Man with silly glasses and a silly expression reading a book by Freud.
Fig. 7

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) and Terry Dennett (British, b. 1938 d. 2018), from Remodelling Photo History (The History Lesson), 1981–1982, gelatin silver print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.2017:0004)

Nude photos of body in a 'Body Mind Journal' from 1989.
Fig. 8

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992), [My Body/Mind Journal], 1989, notebook with chromogenic prints. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.3000:0001)

Fig. 9

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992), [My Body/Mind Journal], 1989, notebook with chromogenic prints. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.3000:0001)

Scrapbook with pastel drawing on cover from 1985.
Fig. 10

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992), [Scrapbook], ca. 1987, pastel drawing. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.3000:0002)

Negatives of series work taking pictures of Barbie dolls from 1982.
Fig. 11

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992), [Work with Barbies], 1982-1983, colour transparencies. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.3000:0003)

Series of portraits of mother.
Fig. 12

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) in collaboration with Rosy Martin, Photo Therapy: My Mother ca. 1952, 1985, chromogenic colour print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.3001:0001)

Photo of woman in towel pouring salt from a bag over her head onto her face with an open mouth.
Fig. 13

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) in collaboration with Rosy Martin, Photo Therapy: Work on Emotional Eating, 1984 (printed 1994), chromogenic colour print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.5001:0001))

Photo of woman soaked in red substance covering her face.
Fig. 14

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) in collaboration with Rosy Martin, from Libido Uprising, 1989 (printed 1994), chromogenic colour print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.5001:0002)

Photo of woman slicing bread at a table.
Fig. 15

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) in collaboration with Rosy Martin, Photo Therapy: Early Mother, 1986-88 (printed 1994) chromogenic colour print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.5001:0003)

Woman dressed up as a fairy godmother.
Fig. 16

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992), [Fairy God Mother and business card], 1984-1989 (printed 1994), chromogenic colour print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.5001:0004)

Photo of a vacuum hose wrapped around a woman's leg wearing fishnet stockings and orange heels.
Fig. 17

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) in collaboration with Rosy Martin, from Libido Uprising, 1989 (printed 1994), chromogenic colour print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.5002:0001)

Jo Spence posing with no shirt and wearing a helmet.
Fig. 18

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) in collaboration with Terry Dennett, [Jo Spence wearing a helmet], 1982 (printed 1994), from The Picture of Health?, 1982-86, chromogenic colour print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.5002:0002)

Photo of a woman in a towel with an 'x' over her right breast.
Fig. 19

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) in collaboration with Rosy Martin, Infantilization, 1984 (printed 2010), from The Picture of Health?, 1982-86, inkjet print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2010.5003:0001)

Two boys holding chickens up to each other as a young boy looks on.
Fig. 20

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) and Terry Dennett (British, b. 1938 d. 2018), from Gypsies and Travellers, 1974, gelatin silver print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2015.2001:0001)

Photo of a swing with two horses on a hill in the background.
Fig. 21

Jo Spence (British, b. 1934 d. 1992) and Terry Dennett (British, b. 1938 d. 2018), from Gypsies and Travellers, 1974, gelatin silver print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre (AG03.2015.2001:0002)