Exhibitions

Graham Keen’s Rare Protest Photographs of 60s London

Image © Graham Keen, courtesy the artist

A exhibition is to celebrate the photographic career of Graham Keen, who will be 80 later this year, looking back on his little seen photographs of the 1960s in London, a decade where pop culture and political protest collided.

In January 1966, Keen, who now lives in Battle, East Sussex, obtained access to the leading 1960s pop programmes, such as Top Of The Pops, Ready Steady Go! and A Whole Scene Going.

With that access, he photographed The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Who, The Move and Pink Floyd.

Keen was involved with the revolutionary counter culture newspaper “International Times” (IT), which was published for the first time in 1966. He contributed photographs before becoming the magazine’s art director for issues 40-70.

When the magazine was raided by police, Keen and three other directors were sent for trial, and found guilty of Conspiracy to Corrupt Public Morals.

One series of photographs that Keen took were the documentation of the first London exhibition of the experimental artist Yoko Ono, who showed at Indica Gallery in November 1966.

Keen’s rare photographs of Ono’s Ceiling work as well as her Film No. 4, (aka Bottoms), made with her husband at the time, Anthony Cox, are unique records of Ono’s early artistic career.

The exhibition was sponsored by the art dealer Robert (Groovy Bob) Fraser and visited by John Lennon, who fell in love with Ono.

In May of 1966, Keen was one of two photographers to capture Muhammad Ali when he met Michael X, the then British Black Power leader, in London, together with Herbert Muhammad on their visit to the site of the Central London Mosque in Regents Park.

These photographs which will be seen for the first time, were discovered recently during research into Keen’s archive.

Working for Peace News for most of 1960s, Keen covered the CND and CCND marches and Anti-Vietnam War protests. He also went to Cambodia with Peace News group aiming to visit North Vietnam in a gesture of solidarity.

Another set of unseen images captured by Keen shows leaders of a CND march in May 1965, that included Marc Bolan (then under the name of Mark Field) together with Joan Baez, Donovan, Tom Paxton and Vanessa Redgrave.

Keen’s archive also includes poets and artists such as Allen Ginsberg, the writer William Burroughs (with whom he would collaborate on the graphic Comic Strip Paper “Cyclops”) and  Francis Bacon.

An ardent jazz fan, Keen also photographed Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins and the Basie Band.

This exhibition “Graham Keen: 1966 and All That” runs from 3rd September to the 22nd October 2016, and coincides with major show “You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels – 1966-1970” at The Victoria and Albert Museum running from 10th September 26th February.