CESEM seminar: "Facing the Camera and Seeing Black": photography, identity and everyday life in a British inner city'
'If you say "Handsworth"', the novelist Salman Rushdie wrote in the 1980s, 'what do you see? Most Britons would see fire, riots, looted shops, young Rastas and helmeted cops by night'. In the aftermath of the 1985 rioting in Handsworth, a district in Birmingham, England, one photograph appeared on the front page of every national tabloid newspaper. The 'black bomber', as the man in the photograph came to be known, helped establish Handsworth's reputation as Birmingham's 'Little Harlem'. Yet alongside this, many photographers within Handsworth were also operating at this time, and attempting to forward alternative narratives about the area's 'super diverse' population. In 1979, for example, local photographers Derek Bishton, Brian Homer and John Reardon set up a makeshift studio outside their premises in Handsworth, and invited passers-by to come in and take their own portrait. Also in this period, Handsworth photographers Pogus Caesar and Vanley Burke began taking photographs of black people going about their daily lives in Handsworth. Caesar and Burke's photographs foreground different, hitherto unrecorded stories that took place in the Handsworth context, and present a community seemingly at ease in their surroundings. In the context of near-continual panic about multiculture across Europe, this paper seeks to show how photography can forward - albeit problematically - ordinary, everyday, even banal stories in diverse areas. In times of multicultural panic, the paper argues, it is increasingly important to give such stories our attention.
The paper can be obtained from CESEM’s website a week before the seminar. Participants are expected to have read the paper.