Take a look at these 10 amazing images from the V&A's new photography exhibition focusing on Black-British identity, through style, culture, beauty & reportage.
The black British experience goes back at least 2,000 years – when legionaries from Africa settled here – and has always been part of Britain’s cultural dynamism. But if you look for evidence of this in our museums, you’ll sometimes be disappointed.
Over the past decade, however, London’s V&A has been working to fix this. The V&A was the first museum to collect photography as an art form, and it now has more than half a million photographs in its collection. Many of these tell the story of black British art and culture, but they’ve never been gathered into one collection – until now, along with fantastic new Lottery funded acquisitions. The V&A has teamed up with Brixton-based Black Cultural Archives to present ‘Staying Power’, a striking display of more than 50 photographs from the 1950s to the 1990s – a period when black Britons transformed the nation’s music, art, fashion and youth scenes.
There are some fantastic finds. The black-and-white series ‘On A Good Day’, by American photographer Al Vandenberg (who studied with Richard Avedon), stops random black Londoners on the street for impromptu portraits, resplendent in the street styles of the day. Then there are shots by rock photographer Dennis Morris, a close friend of Bob Marley and the Sex Pistols. You’ll also find images from multicultural post-war Notting Hill, and the vibrant reggae, soul and hip-hop scenes of the 1980s. There are dandies, beauty queens, campaigners and kids.
To complement the exhibition, Black Cultural Archives has collected oral histories from the photographers, their subjects and their relatives. These will be at the Heritage Centre in Brixton during the V&A’s ‘Staying Power’ exhibition, until 30 June.
The V&A display runs until May 24th.
Armet Francis. Self-Portrait in Mirror, London, 1964.
Al Vandenberg. From the series On a Good Day, 1970s.
Al Vandenberg. High Street Kensington, from the series On A Good Day, 1970s
James Barnor. Wedding Guests in London, 1960s.
Charlie Phillips. Notting Hill Couple, 1967.
Neil Kenlock. A young girl speaking on her parents’ telephone, 1970s
J D Okhai Ojeikere. From the series Headties, Nigeria 2004
J D Okhai Ojeikere. Beri Beri from the series Hairstyles, Nigeria 1974.
Normski. She Rockers, Shepherds Bush Green London. 1980s
Yinka Shonibare. Diary of a Victorian Dandy