Mark Sealy guides us through the work of eight artists from an exhibition he originally curated for FotoFest 2020, examining the relationships between contemporary African life, the diaspora, and global histories of photography and colonialism
This month, the director of Autograph ABP reflects on his life and career
Lina Iris Viktor presents a gilded new exhibition in London, delving deep into the complex history of one of the world’s most desired metals
Born on the Caribbean island of Grenada in 1935, Raphael Albert moved to London in 1953. Studying photography at Ealing Technical College while working part-time at a cake factory, he soon picked up freelance jobs for black British papers such as West Indian World, The Gleaner, Caribbean Times, and New World, and also started to document the West Indian communities in Hammersmith and Fulham, photographing weddings, Christenings and other social events, and taking studio portraits of local families in his home.
In 1970 he established the Miss Black and Beautiful contest, followed by Miss West Indies in Great Britain, Miss Teenager of the West Indies in Great Britain, and Miss Grenada, running them via his company, Albert Promotions, and going on to set up a magazine called Charisma in 1984. The pageants ran for 30 years and he documented them all photographically, as well as commissioning other photographers to shoot them, and in 2007 he organised a display of their work during Black History Month titled Great Britain: Celebrating 30 Years of Beauty Pageants (1963-1993). Albert died in 2009.
“People say that John was brilliant but tricky, but he was only difficult if you were being mediocre,” says Sacha Lehrfreund, John Reardon’s long term partner and one-time colleague. “In a professional capacity he wanted to be excellent. He pushed it beyond a point that was comfortable for lots of people, but he made you better than you might otherwise be.”
“John Reardon was an artist,” says Greg Whitmore, picture editor of The Observer and another former colleague. “You can see it the photographs of Handsworth cricket fans, the Kosovan woman and baby, the portrait of Fergus Henderson…John was one of the greats of his generation.” John Reardon, a celebrated photojournalist who went on to shoot equally celebrated celebrity portraits for The Observer, has died aged 66.
“I’m reclaiming my blackness, which I feel is continuously performed by the privileged other,” says South African photographer Zanele Muholi. Born in 1972 in Umlazi, a township close to Durban, Muholi defines herself as a visual activist using photography to articulate contemporary identity politics. In her latest series, Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail the Dark Lioness, she uses her body to confront the politics of race and representation, questioning the way the black body is shown and perceived.
With only one week left to enter the International Photography Award 2018, judge Mark Sealy discusses the kind of work he will be looking for
“Everyone talks about 1968 as the year of revolution, but America was burning in 1967,” says Mark Sealy. “There were many riots and disturbances that year, but Parks was looking at intimacy, not running across the country shooting riots. He was telling history through these very personal stories.” He’s talking about Gordon Parks, the feted documentary photographer and film-maker (best known for directing Shaft). In particular Sealy is talking about Parks’ work with the Fontenelles, a family living in poverty in Harlem in 1967 that Parks photographed for a 16-page story published in Life in March ’68.
Gideon Mendel’s new series Dzhangal is a portrait of the Calais Jungle, told through its abandoned objects. The title is an Afghan/Pakistani Pashto word meaning ‘This is the forest’, which became the colloquial name for the migrant camp, which existed until 26 October 2016. Mendel first went to the Jungle to teach photography with the University of East London’s Centre for Narrative Research, which was running courses and programmes for camp residents. He noticed a growing sense of antagonism towards photographers, with the refugees fearing that images would hinder rather than help their efforts to gain asylum, and looked to find a way of portraying them without identifying them. He decided to turn to their discarded possessions, collecting and recording what he found and bringing it back to London. “When I first came back with a whole bunch of bags full of what looked like random rubbish, my wife thought I’d completely lost the plot,” he laughs. “She thought I’d really gone mad, finally.” Some of this ‘random rubbish’ is now being housed at London’s Autograph ABP though, part of an …
Twenty years ago this month, at the age of 23, Kalpana Chakma was abducted from her home in Bangladesh. She was held at gunpoint by a military officer and two members of the Village Defence Party and driven away. She has never been seen again. Chakma was the organising secretary of the Hill Women’s Federation in Bangladesh, an organisation that campaigned for the rights of indigenous people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) area of Bangladesh. As she fought to regain the land had been stolen from her community, the Pahari people by the Bagladeshi government through the Bangladeshi army, so she was deemed an enemy of the state. No-one knows if she’s a political prisoner, celebrating her 40th birthday alone somewhere. Or whether she was killed, silently, long ago. This week, photographer and Bangladeshi activist Shahidul Alam launched an installation at East London’s Autograph ABP gallery in memory of Kalpana, and celebrating the work she so fearlessly carried out. The exhibition features portraits of ‘Kalpana’s Warriors’, contemporary Bangladeshi campaigners living in mortal danger in an increasingly repressive environment. The …