I came across this article (“The black Victorians: astonishing portraits unseen for 120 years”) in the Guardian, about a photographic exhibit at Rivington Place* in London, and I wanted to bring it to your attention while there’s still time for you to see it if you find yourself in London.
The newspaper comments the photos “show colonialism in all its contradictions”—but notes also that these photos (they’re beautiful) “challenge the received narrative of the history of black people in Britain.”
“Black Chronicles II is part of a wider ongoing project called The Missing Chapter,” says Mussai, “which uses the history of photography to illuminate the missing chapters in British history and culture, especially black history and culture. There is a widespread misconception that black experience in Britain begins with the arrival of the Empire Windrush and the first Jamaican immigrants in 1948, but, as this exhibition shows, there is an incredible archive of images of black people in Britain that goes right back to the invention of photography in the 1830s.”
All of the images featured in the article are copyrighted and reproduced with permission, which I don’t have, so you’ll just have to visit the links (here’s another) to have a look at these gorgeous antique photos.
And if you’re anywhere near London, this is just one more good excuse to make a trip into town.
* With a tagline that reads “Art, debate & diversity,” Rivington Place deserves a post all on its own. It’s a free public gallery and the home of Iniva (the Institute of International Visual Art) and Autograph ABP. It also houses the Stuart Hall Library, meeting rooms, and education facilities.