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15 Feb

‘Staying Power: Photographs of Black British Experience, 1950s – 1990s’

Founded in 1981, the Black Cultural Archives’ mission is to collect, preserve and celebrate the heritage and history of Black people in Britain. They opened the UK’s first dedicated Black heritage centre in Brixton, London in July 2014. Their unparalleled and growing archive collection offers insight into the history of people of African and Caribbean descent in Britain. The bulk of the collection is drawn from the twentieth century to the present day, while some materials date as far back as the second century. The collection includes personal papers, organisational records, rare books, ephemera, photographs, and a small object collection.

“Staying Power: Photographs of Black British Experience, 1950s – 1990s” @The Black Cultural Archives Centre, Brixton, 15 January – 30 June 2015

Staying Power is an important exhibition featuring photographs, drawn from the V&A’s collection, which begin to document the experiences of Black people in Britain in the latter half of the 20th century.

Inspired by Peter Fyrer’s seminal text Staying Power, The History of Black People in Britain, this exhibition focuses on a period of time when photography served as an archival tool to capture historical moments. From documentary to portraiture to staged allegorical photographs, Staying Power documents experiences from post-World War II through to the 1990s, covering topics from mass migration to hip hop fashions of south London.

We invite you to contemplate the narratives behind the iconic work of Dennis MorrisCharlie Philips’ visual record of city life and local heroes, and Neil Kenlock’s photographic journalism. Discover the work of acclaimed photographer James Barnor who captured many greats during the ‘swinging sixties’, self-taught Colin Jones and his infamous images of youth alienation, the powerful images of uprisings and protest captured by Pogus Caesar, and allegorical portraits by Ingrid Pollard. Through the lens of the photographers celebrate the moment of The Specials Fans by Syd Shelton and Gavin Watson’s insight into the ska youth sub-culture. Explore representations of beauty and aesthetics through the work of Armet FrancisJennie Baptiste, Al Vandenberg and Raphael Albert.

This exhibition asks questions about this rapidly changing cultural landscape, where identity and representation collides with music, politics, and fashion. The selected photographs are complimented by previously unheard oral history testimonies from the photographers and contributors.

This exhibition is the culmination of a seven-year collaborative project Staying Power between Black Cultural Archives and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The Staying Power project aimed to increase the number of Black British photographers and images of Black people in Britain in the V&A’s National Collection on the Art of Photography. It aims to raise awareness of the contribution of Black people to British culture and society, as well as the art of photography.

Read more about the Staying Power project.

A concurrent Staying Power display will be on show at the V&A, from 16 February – 24 May 2015.

Untitled, circa 1960s, from the portfolio Black Beauty Pageants | Photograph: Raphael Albert/Victoria and Albert Museum

HD-1469 (Pineapple), 1969 | Photograph: The Estate of J. D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere/Victoria and Albert Museum

Diary of a Victorian Dandy 14.00 hours, 1998 | Photograph: Yinka Shonibare/Victoria and Albert Museum

Untitled [A young girl speaking on her parents’ telephone in South London], 1973 | Photograph: Neil Kenlock/Victoria and Albert Museum

Wedding Guests in London, 1960s | Photograph: James Barnor/Victoria and Albert Museum

Untitled, 1970s | Photograph: The Estate of Al Vandenberg/Victoria and Albert Museum










She Rockers (London Rap/Dance Crew), Shepherd’s Bush Green, London, 1988 | Photograph: Normski/Victoria and Albert Museum










Untitled, 1970s | Photograph: The Estate of Al Vandenberg/Victoria and Albert Museum

Related articles:

The Observer, The black experience: portraits of a community

Robert Elms, BBC London talks to Staying Power curator Dr. Kimberly F. Keith 

Time Out, 19 pictures of West Londoners by Charlie Philips

London Live on Staying Power exhibition

Black Ballard Interview: This Woman’s Work Dr Kim Keith

Afridiziak News on Staying Power exhibition



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