Brixton Studio by Harry Jacobs at The Photographer's gallery,
5 & 8 Great Newport Street,
4 Nov to 16th
collection of portrait photography spanning the decades from the 1950's
to 1990's same back drop, a hot palm tree location somewhere far from
England where the mixing pot location is set up in a studio set up in
Brixton. He captures the authenticity of the times, the changes in street
fashion, peoples working professions, the family, the different crews
the rise in bi- racial relationships. Following on from black History
month in October, Harry Jacobs gives us an intimate insight into Black
history, black presence in Brixton in England, The portraits are not exclusive
to African descents there are Asian families and European ones. What is
most apparent are the similarities and not the differences which some
people choose to highlight within the races. The fitting into British
culture, through fashion, and the love of family&friends, which is
universal. Same pose proud father standing beside the mother who is holding
their new born baby; From people from three different continents.
Some of the photos are comical, heart warming. I loved the one of a little
two year old next to his toy car with that 'unique' backdrop behind him.
Sporting an afro of his decade. The props are fantastic, particularly
the bouquet of flowers almost satirical but for the time it captures.
The crews, the cool cats & ladies, the originals, setting trends to
be echoed in the following decades. Freezing signatures of life long friends.
The viewer builds up a relationship with all these faces and you can't
help wonder how their lives were outside of the studio. The community
spirit is evident, They are proud, this is their identity, when you remember
the politics going on at the time, it is almost like taking a stance.
The photo's are predominantly in black and white print, changing to colour
with the times, in the middle of the seventies. Different occasions are
caught on camera, still life poses which look quiet theatrical, weddings,
the church, love, a birthday, a trio in drag, an open coffin.
loved the ones taken away from the studio, in the homes of the residents.
It felt like a part of my history. One was taken on the streets with a
resident beside Muhammad Ali when he visited the area.
A poignant one is of a lady who may have been forgotten. A photo of a
pensioner's pass 'a sugar worker'. Who came to this new land and never
left, like many said they wanted to do after they made enough money to
return home. This became their home and the only home their off spring
The eighties sees a few differences in the fashion stakes between the
Brixton people. Identity stakes become more apparent, unlike the decades
before where you could see the Blacks embracing all the fashion of the
country. Something different happens in the eighties there is a difference
between the dress of a white Brixton and a black Brixton. Street fashion
is being cultivated in a way not seen before.
It is a fascinating exhibition. Harry Jacob's photos are intimate with
over 500 exhibited. The photos are weathered slightly by age, they are
small and personal, cluttered together like a family tree. As the decades
roll on there is always something to connect with or embrace. What will
be of the family, in this millennium? The theme continues with other photographers
behind the lens in modern times.
The photographer Eileen Perrier has a love affair with Afro hair with
photos of dread locks and natural African hair, dressed in pink.
Jitka Hanzlova took her photo's in Brixton as a temporary artist in residence.
Focusing on people and their relationship to place. I found it quite abstract
to the Brixton I know which is always busy during the day but she managed
to capture these passer-by in a vacuum, owning the space and time, there
is a quiet about the photos which I found calming and compelling. I loved
the titles of the photos too, very simple yet complicated when you take
into light the complexity of the area. Maybe that's what the Jitka was
trying do, take away all the propaganda and reveal the implicit beauty
of the women in her photos.
By Samantha Almon