|Photographs by Neil Kenlock|
One of the rewarding things about having a mooch around Tate Britain – apart from having a gander at the various pieces by Bacon, Blake, Tilson, Riley and the rest - is it throws up unexpected temporary mini-exhibitions tucked away within the more permanent works.
A case in point is the current BP Spotlight sponsored Stan Firm inna Inglan: Black Diaspora in London, 1960-1970s, its title taken from the poem ‘'It Dread inna Inglan' by Linton Kwesi Johnson, which selects work by eight photographers who documented black communities in London during those years.
Neil Kenlock, along with Linton Kwesi Johnson and Darcus Howe, who died this month, was a member of the British Black Panthers, loosely modelled on their more illustrious American counterparts. These London Panthers existed between 1968 and 1972 and Kenlock adopted the role of official photographer, documenting their meetings, marches and members as well as the hostility faced by new immigrants in the UK as exemplified in his ‘Keep Britain White’ Graffiti, Balham image.
When Saffiyah Khan calmly smiled in the ugly faces of the EDL last Saturday while wearing a Specials t-shirt, an image since 'gone viral', it recalled the Rock Against Racism campaign of the late 70s. Syd Shelton documented that fight against the National Front via demonstrations, carnivals and gigs and, by chance, a fertile period in youth movements with rude boys, skinheads, punks and mods embroiled in Britain’s political turmoil.
Colin Jones is best known around these parts for his 60s photos of The Who but his series The Black House, commissioned by The Sunday Times, features the conditions of Islington Council’s project Harambee, a halfway house for vulnerable young people. Despite daubing ‘Black Power’ on the outside of the property these people, according to Jones, “weren’t interested in politics – it was the black middle class who tried to get them involved in black power – they were too busy trying to survive from day to day.” Even with that struggle it’s impossible to miss how visually striking they were, as Jones told Time Out in 2007, “Style came naturally to them. They would look good in anything. The women loved clothes and all borrowed each other’s dresses, although they were too proud to accept hand-me-downs – especially from white people. They liked being photographed as it gave them a feeling of importance and broke up the monotony of the day.”
Dennis Morris captures Hackney and Dalston when they were still desolate areas, a far cry from their recent gentrification. Less overtly political, James Barnor’s portraits for Ghana’s Drum magazine show African culture embracing Swinging London (psychedelic fabrics, red pillar boxes, pigeons in Leicester Square); Raphael Albert depicts beauty contests and the glamour of everyday folk; Bandele ‘Tex’ Ajetunmobi photographs include integrated couples enjoying the hospitality of a Whitechapel nightclub; and Al Vandenberg scoured the streets looking for interesting people to photograph.
Top left & right by Syd Shelton
Bottom left & right by Raphael Albert
|Photo by Colin Jones|