Exhibition: Staying Power

25.02.15

Words

Sarah Ilene

Photography

Property of the Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria & Albert Museum in London is a great place to be when you need a dose of culture and knowledge. They consistently have interesting and thought-provoking exhibitions ranging from the big scale crowd-gatherers to the smaller single room exhibits. Whatever the size of the exhibition, the V&A never fails to impress. We recently visited one of their newest photographic displays, Staying Power: Photographs of Black British Experience 1950s-1990s. As the title suggests this exhibition is centred round the contribution of black Britons to British culture and society. It is a project designed to shine some light on and increase the number of black British photographers and images in the V&A collection.

Staying Power

Neil Kenlock, ‘Untitled [Young woman seated on the floor at home in front of her television set]’, C- type print, London, 1972 © Neil Kenlock / Victoria and Albert, London

Staying Power

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

Featured in this exhibition are the works of photographers such as Dennis Morris, Gavin Watson, Normski, Neil Kenlock, Armet Francis, Maxine Walker, Pogus Caeser to name but a few. All with varying styles and subjects to convey the different aspects of life for black British people during this time period. One of our favourites though was the work of Al Vandenberg. Born to Dutch parents, Vandenberg grew up near Boston, USA with an English foster family. After serving in the Korean War he went on to attend art school in Boston and New York, studying photography alongside the likes of Richard Avedon and Alexey Brodovitch. Throughout the 1960s he was a successful commercial photographer and art director in both London and New York. To illustrate this success – he was involved in the art direction of The Beatles’ iconic Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover. Very impressive indeed. Vandenberg settled in London in 1974 with the aim of using his photographic skills to create portraits of city life. Though he continued to travel and create street portraits in America, South East Asia and China, in this exhibition you will see some of the photographs he captured of Londoners during the 1970s and 80s. We love the combination of street photography with classic portraiture, capturing people in their surroundings makes us wonder who those people were and what they did day to day.

Staying Power

Armet Francis, ‘Self-Portrait in Mirror’, London, 1964, gelatin silver print © Armet Francis / Victoria and Albert, London

Running from now until 24 May 2015 we think this exhibition is definitely worth a visit. It is a chance to see work from a range of talented photographers, all of whom focused their lens on a different aspect of black British life. More than that, as is often the case with photography, it is a chance to see life through someone else’s experience and that is always a good thing.

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