Black Chronicles II – The Unseen Portraits of Victorian Britain

The newly opened exhibition at Autograph ABP, Black Chronicles II, explores black presence in nineteenth and early twentieth-century British studio photography. Bringing together over 200 photographs, some of which have been unseen for 120 years, the body of curated works sheds an interesting light on the black subject in Victorian Britain. As the co-curator, Renée Mussai, explains: “Black Chronicles II is part of a wider ongoing project called The Missing Chapter, which uses the history of photography to illuminate the missing chapters in British history and culture, especially black history and culture. There is a widespread misconception that black experience in Britain begins with the arrival of the Empire Windrush and the first Jamaican immigrants in 1948, but, as this exhibition shows, there is an incredible archive of images of black people in Britain that goes right back to the invention of photography in the 1830s.”

Mussai notes that there “are several intertwining narratives – colonial, cultural and personal – embedded in these images, but what is often startling is how confident and self-contained many of the sitters are as they occupy the frame.” Above all, these precious windows into Victorian life present images of British colonialism in all its contradictions – the Ethiopian prince in exile, the black companion-servant to explorer Henry Morton Stanley and the celebrated, imprisoned “gift to the Queen of the Whites”.

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December 2nd, 1889. Peter Jackson, born in St. Croix (then the Danish West Indies) in 1860. Jackson was a boxing champion who frequently embarked on long European tours. In 1888 he claimed the title of Australian heavy weight champion. In 1889, he staged a famous fight against Jem Smith in the Pelican Club in England.

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Brighton, 1862. Sara Forbes Bonetta was perhaps one of the most celebrated black British Victorians, an ordinary woman caught up in the sweep of colonialism and post colonialism. She was captured at the age of 5 in West Africa by slave raiders and rescued by Captain Fredrick E. Forbes. Forbes then presented Sara as a “gift” to Queen Victoria, after rechristening her after his ship – the Bonetta. Captain Forbes proudly recalled that Sara “would be a present from the King of the Blacks to the Queen of the Whites.”

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The Isle of Wight, 1868. Dejazmatch Alamayou Tewodros was an Ethiopian prince who was orphaned at the age of 7 when his King father died rather than surrendering to the British troops that surrounded his castle. Alamayou was brought to England by Sir Robert Napier and later adopted by the explorer Captain Tristram Speedy. Alamayou died in England of pleurisy in 1879.

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November 3rd, 1890. Major Musa Bhai was a Ceylon-born Muslim who converted to Christianity in colonial India. He travelled to England in 1888 with the family of William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, later to become a high-profile advocate of the organisation.

The African Choir were a group of South African singers who toured Britain between 1891 and 1893. They were brought together to raise funds for a Christian school in their home country and performed for Queen Victoria at Osbourne House in the Isle of Wight. At some point during their stay, the choir group visited the studios of The London Stereoscopic Company to have group and individual portraits made. The London Stereoscopic Company specialised in producing carte de visites, small photographs printed on cards that were traded by collectors or used by performers for publicity purposes. These long-lost images, last shown in the London Illustrated News in 1891, make up the dramatic centrepiece to this exhibition.

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1891. Eleanor Xiniwe of the African Choir.

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1891. An unknown member of the African Choir.

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1891. An unknown member of the African Choir.

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1891. An unknown member of the African Choir.

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1891. Johanna Jonkers of the African Choir.

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1891. Albert Jonas and John Xiniwe of the African Choir.

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Circa 1890. Advert for the Lion Troupe of Ashante Warriors, the Wonders of the World.

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This man was brought to Britain with a Zulu troupe during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, and was part of explorer Guillermo Antonio Farini’s exhibition of ‘Friendly Zulus’ in London, 1879.

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Circa 1870. Saragano Alicamousa, a renowned lion and tiger tamer.

Autograph ABP is a foundation that focuses on black cultural identity, often through the use of overlooked archives. Rivington Place, London, EC2A 3BA. September 11th 2014 – November 29th 2014.

Image sources: The Michael Graham Stuart Collection; The Hulton Archive; The Jenny Alsworth Collection; The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography; The Paul Frecker Collection; Autograph ABP; The Guardian Newspaper.

Xu Bing’s Tiger Skin Rug and Tobacco Project

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 11.54.31 From above and afar, you would be excused for mistaking this great work with the lavish furnishing of a tiger skin rug. However, it’s when one steps closer that they notice the unusual material making up this 40-foot work of art – 500,000 cigarettes. The Chinese contemporary artist Xu Bing began working on his tobacco project in 2000, this 440-pound rug forming the climax of his ensuing exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 2011 – The Tobacco Project. The entire study explores the international trade, packaging, marketing and seduction of a deadly smoking habit. Bing chose Virginia to exhibit his work, as the eastern American state is traditionally known as the home of mass produced tobacco products. The artist visited tobacco farms, warehouses and cigarette factories in Virginia to create the work for this exhibition, which also includes pieces from his previous projects on the same topic. Using tobacco as both a material and a subject in which to explore a wide range of issues, Bing’s work relates to issues from global trade to the exploitation of tobacco. His interest in ‘tobacco culture’ extends further to the historical impact of China’s large-scale exportation of tobacco products from the United States, which originally began in the late 19th century. Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 12.24.02 Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 12.24.13 Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 12.24.26 Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 12.24.34 Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 12.24.48 Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 12.24.57 Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 12.25.09 For more information on the making of Bing’s Tiger Skin Rug: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfygs7A-Nb0

Image source: My Modern Met

What Would These Fashionistas Change About The Fashion Industry?

New York Fashion Week, September 2014: Looks like stripes are making a strong come back, but attitudes and egos need to be left behind.

longform-original-11275-1410396293-3Curran J. “Men need to be more stylish.”

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longform-original-30810-1410396293-3Paola, stylist and designer:”The industry needs to give upcoming designer’s more of a chance.”

longform-original-11906-1410396291-6Jamal and Faustina, stylists and bloggers:

“Fashion is too much like high school and that needs to change. We need a principal that puts their foot down and accepts vision and creativity above all.” – Faustina

“There’s not enough brand loyalty.” – Jamal

longform-original-16331-1410396290-14Darlene: “I wanna see more crazy people, more flashy fashion, and more freedom.”

longform-original-26693-1410384178-33Yazmin: “I want to see less animal testing and less fur.”

 

longform-original-16682-1410396290-4Kie: “Diversity. It’s not as mixed as it could be when it comes to models and designers.”

longform-original-5105-1410384171-3Delon, stylist: “The industry should be more welcoming.”

longform-original-5242-1410384179-15Festy and Chaby, Hungarian style bloggers: “Here, nothing. Everything is so high quality. In Hungary, where we’re from, we have to improve more.”

longform-original-23467-1410384175-4Yanyan and Shonicc: “Nothing. It’s crazy but it’s lovely.”

longform-original-25366-1410384175-12Nicoletta, stylist: “The egos.”

longform-original-5238-1410384173-3Romeo: “The lack of elegance. I love elegance.”

longform-original-13536-1410452867-28Kingo: “More creativity. It was a little safe.”

longform-original-23625-1410384168-25Adam Bobby, designer: “I don’t like that fashion is so exclusive. It needs to be more available to everyone. Instead of money, it needs to be about the heart of the work.”

grid-cell-31765-1410395588-4Ahmed: “There should be more focus on dapper style.”

longform-original-1047-1410452699-29Zachary, student: “The fashion industry should try to bring more outsiders in. I feel like The Devil Wears Prada has given a false view of the industry to people.”

longform-original-4064-1410452569-20Sean, blogger: “Fashion needs more personality, and the classics and glamor need to come back.”

longform-original-4167-1410452533-4Maeve and Beagy, stylists:

Maeve: “I don’t like the ‘who wore it best’ columns.”

Beagy: “I don’t like THE ATTITUDES.”

 

 

Photo credits to Lauren Zasar.

The Democracy of [Art].

Some writers…are firmly of the opinion that there is a correct way to read their books, and they argue strongly with readers who, they think have got them wrong. My view is exactly the opposite. Readers may interpret my work in any way they please, and people do…The problem with my telling people what I think such-and-such a story means is that my interpretation seems to have some extra authority, which shuts down debate: if the author himself has said it means X, then it can’t mean Y. Believing as I do in the democracy of reading, I don’t like the sort of totalitarian silence that descends when there is one authoritative reading of any text.” – Taken from the Afterword in Philip Pullman’s ‘The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ’

This paragraph in Pullman’s book really stuck out for me, and I found myself re-reading the words over and over again. Replacing the terms ‘writer/author’ with ‘artist‘ and ‘book/reading/text’ with ‘art‘, the meaning behind this excerpt can be expanded to demonstrate the accessibility of art and the opportunities it holds in opening debate, be it positive or negative. It’s a statement that I firmly believe – I find great interest in seeing ways in which works of art introduce viewers to new ideas and perspectives, showing us that from one object can be taken a number of different yet equal interpretations depending on the viewers upbringing, education, past experiences, religious/political/social beliefs, etc.

Lest we forget: 100 years on from the First World War.

“By the end of the First World War there were very few people in the countries that took part who remained unaffected. The war reached out and touched almost everyone’s life in some way or other.”

Yesterday marked the centenary of Britain entering the Great War (1914-1918) – the first global conflict of the Industrial Age. Artists and historians have been commissioned for various projects to mark the start of the First World War and to commemorate all those who fought in it. The Open University enlisted the help of a restoration expert to colourise a selection of photographs taken during the conflict. The original black and white images have been completely transformed and brought to life, presenting windows into the lives of the many soldiers and civilians affected by the events of World War I.

(For those wanting to learn more about the events that shaped the First World War, a short BBC video by Dan Snow, giving an overview of the whole war, can be found here)

 

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German Field Artillery Regiment crew, with a 7.7 cm Feldkanone 96 field gun, 1914

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Cleveland Frank Snoswell returns home to Australia from the war

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A soldier receives a hair cut from an Alpine barber in a trench on the Albanian front in 1918.

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Canadian infantry with the mascot of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Battalion, August 1916.

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Indian infantry prepare for a gas attack by wearing gas masks in their trench, 1915.

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A group of soldiers advance from a trench, over a protective wall of sandbags (c. 1915).

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A mobile pigeon loft, which enabled messages to be sent from the Front Line back to headquarters. The BBC reports that 100,000 carrier pigeons were used as messengers throughout the First World War, and records show they delivered 95% of their messages correctly.

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A young boy and girl ride in a decorated toy car to promote the Red Cross during a charity fundraising event in Adelaide, Australia.

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A soldier and horse wear gas masks at the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps Headquarters.

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Members of the 1st Australian Imperial Force at a camp in Australia (c. 1916).

SkyCycle: The Future of London

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The proposed SkyCycle tracks. Image source: Foster & Partners

Norman Foster’s vision for a network of bike paths suspended over London’s railway lines, could see commuters gliding over the city as they travel to and from work. Unveiled earlier in January, SkyCycle would allow cyclists to move through the city completely liberated from the roads. The plans have already won the backing of Network Rail and Transport for London and would see the installation of over 220km of elevated, car-free routes suspended on pylons over the suburban rail track lines, with over 200 entrance points, ultimately accommodating 12,000 cyclists per hour. Lord Foster, for whom cycling is a great passion, describes the plan as “a lateral approach to finding space in a congested city…By using the corridors above the suburban railways, we could create a world-class network of safe, car-free cycle routes that are ideally located for commuters.” The idea gained the approval of the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, by complete accident after Foster’s team bumped into Boris in the lift on their way to a meeting at City Hall. The addition of SkyCycle to London’s already eclectic skyline would present yet another innovative way in which the historic city has continually evolved and adapted to its growing population and to changing fashion.

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Originally conceived in the 1890’s as a money-making enterprise, the California Cycleway (to connect Pasadena to Los Angeles via 14km of raised timber decking, with a toll of 10 cents per Cycleway user) was never completed due to the rise of the Model T Ford and the automobile industry. Only 2km of the track was built before construction ceased. Will Foster’s SkyCycle prove better luck?  Image source: Cycle Infrastructure/nai010

 

Photos Merged: Cities of World War II, then and now.

Google Street View specialist Halley Docherty brings life to old pictures by combining aged photos with corresponding Street View images. In these photos Docherty takes us back to cities of the second world war, giving us a glimpse of life then and now.

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A boy reaches for his father’s hand as Canada’s British Columbia Regiment marches through New Westminster, B.C. October 1940.

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German soldiers march down the Champs-Elysées in Paris, June 1940.

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On October 14th 1940, a bomb partially destroyed the Balham station civilian air raid shelter during the London blitz.

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Cranes lifting buses from the Balham bomb crater, October 1940.

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The bridge connecting two sections of the ghetto in Warsaw, Poland, pictured in the first half of 1942, a year before the Warsaw uprising.

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Crowds watch the D-Day newsline ticker at Times Square, New York City, on June 6th 1944.

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Jubliant crowds line the Champs-Elysées after the liberation of Paris in August 1944.

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Russian soldiers rally at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in 1945.

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A man surveys the wreckage left by the explosion of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Japan, in August 1945. The ruins of the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (pictured), one of the few buildings to remain standing, are now part of the Peace Memorial Park.

 

Photographs all by Halley Docherty.