Autograph ABP presents Black Chronicles II, a new exhibition exploring black presences in 19thand early 20th-century Britain, through the prism of photography – particularly studio portraiture. Many of the images on display have very recently been unearthed as part of our current archive research programme, The Missing Chapter – a three-year project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This is the second exhibition in a series dedicated to excavating archives, which began with ‘The Black Chronicles’ in 2011.
Drawing on the metaphor of the chronicle, the exhibition, curated by Renée Mussai and Mark Sealy, presents over 200 photographs, the majority of which have never been exhibited or published before. As a curated body of work, these photographs present new knowledge and offer different ways of seeing the black subject in Victorian Britain, and contribute to an ongoing process of redressing persistent ‘absence’ within the historical record.
Black Chronicles II is a public showcase of Autograph ABP’s commitment to continuous critical enquiry into archive images which have been overlooked, under-researched or simply not recognised as significant previously, but which are highly relevant to black representational politics and cultural history today. For the first time a comprehensive body of portraits depicting black people prior to the beginning of the second world war are brought together in this exhibition – identified through original research carried out in the holdings of national public archives and by examining privately owned collections. This research also coincides with Autograph ABP’s continuous search for the earliest photographic image of a black person created in the UK.
The curatorial premise of Black Chronicles II is to open up critical enquiry into the archive, continue the debate around black subjectivity within Britain, examine the ideological conditions in which such photographs were produced and the purpose they serve as agents of communication. Viewers are invited to unpick the authority the archive confers on historic rendering of black experiences and it encourages us all to look beyond established grand narratives.
The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Stuart Hall (1932-2014), and features text and audio excerpts from his keynote speech on archives and cultural memory, held at Rivington Place in May 2008.
Black Chronicles II also marks the 30th anniversary of the publication of Peter Fryer’s seminal book Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (1984).
11 September, 6:30 – 8:30pm.
at Rivington Place, London, UK