Email Address

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

TRY THIS - Black Brit Experience at V&A

I found the V&A Exhibit, Staying Power: Photographs of British Black Experience 1950s-1990s that opened yesterday both absorbing and optimistic CLICK HERE. Over the last 7 years the V&A has worked with the Black Cultural Archives to acquire images that document the lives of black people in Britain. Supported by Heritage Lottery Funding, the museum has collected 118 works by 17 artists in an effort to beef up their collection.

Al Vandenberg, 'High Street Kensington' from the series 'On a Good Day'   
(c) The Estate of Al Vandenberg / Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The photo above was part of a grouping by Al Vadenberg that were collectively my favourite. Vadenberg lived in New York City in the 60s but would later move to London. He combined street photography with portraiture, posing his subjects, often outside shop fronts. They include a photo of school girls preening for the camera. It seems clear that for these young women the camera retained a magical quality. While they're light-hearted, the girls radiate respect for the process of being photographed. There's also a photo of a woman wearing roller skates who caught my eye - her rope belt something I intend to style into my look come summer. 

Nomski, 'African Homeboy - Brixton, London 1987' printed 2011
(c) Nomski/ Victoria & Albert, London

This photo, part of a trio on exhibit by Nomski, held my attention. While the man may be trying to appear ominous, it's not working. I wonder if his sense of style trumps his desire to intimidate? Another photo of 3 young women entitled 'She Rockers (London Rap/Dance Crew),' shows tough, urban girl friends. But like the photo above, the violent insignia that often adorn contemporary gang culture is absent. The 'She Rockers' appear fresh faced, even naive.        

Neil Kenlock, ‘Untitled [Young woman seated on the floor at home in front of her television 
set]' C- type print, London, 1972, (c) Neil Kenlock/ Victoria & Albert, London

Neil Kenlock's quartet of photos, including the one above, show what appears to be a family (mother, father, daughter and young son) posed with their possessions. I'm drawn to the pattern clashing and matching that dominates this photo. For me, their home is this family's canvas and I envy their courageous and idiosyncratic style.      

JD Okhai Ojeikere, 'Untitled, HG423-04 from the series Headties
silver gelatin print, Nigeria, 2004, From The Estate of
JD Okhai Ojeikere/ Victoria & Albert, London  

Eight photos by JD Okahi Ojeikere, like this, show 4 head ties and 4 contemporary black hair styles. Each set of images, one traditional and one modern, offers up remarkable style sculptures. While we cannot see the women's faces, these imagines are surprisingly personal. The back of the human neck, such a vulnerable place - both strong and sensitive. 

The exhibition runs until 24 May and is free of charge. If you're in the area, I urge you to view these photos and the others on offer. Running alongside the V&A Exhibit is a Staying Power selection of photos at the Black Cultural Archives CLICK HERE. Founded in 1981, Black Cultural Archives' mission is to collect, preserve and celebrate the heritage and history of black people in Britain. Staying Power serves as example of why London is a vibrant, buzzing, world city - an institutional partnership, supported by public funding, produces a thoughtful, stylish and FREE exhibition. 

No comments: