Autograph, London

Ajamu: The Patron Saint of Darkrooms

28 Apr – 2 Sep 2023

Past Exhibition
Curated by Mark Sealy in association with Bindi Vora

Unapologetically celebrating black queer bodies and pleasure as activism


Rivington Place
London EC2A 3BA, UK

past exhibition

This exhibition is now closed. View our current exhibitions here


For more than 30 years, Ajamu has unapologetically celebrated black queer bodies, the erotic sense and pleasure as activism. He has been at the forefront of genderqueer photography, challenging dominant ideas around masculinity, gender, sexuality and representation of black LGBTQ+ people in the United Kingdom.

Ajamu’s evocative photographs present the lives and experiences of himself and those around him. From charged self-portraits to tender depictions of lovers, spirited images of friends to objects that his sitters use, The Patron Saint of Darkrooms foregrounds the community that has fostered an environment embracing the politics of pleasure. Since the 1980s, Ajamu has sought to use sensuality and desire as a creative practice, liberating representations of the black queer body.

“I want to pose the imagination, fiction and play in opposition to the constant framing our black queer bodies and nuanced lived experiences from within a sociological framework”

— Ajamu

Autograph has worked with Ajamu since the early 1990s, and a selection of commissioned works by the artist are shown for the first time, including Black Bodyscapes (1994), focused on the private sexual realities of black gay men. These are displayed alongside his acclaimed series Black Circus Master (1997), Ecce Homo (2023) Ajamu’s new portraits of black trans men, and more. The gallery is dominated by an imagined darkroom – coated in thick lines of latex – an allusion to the sense of anticipation in Ajamu’s process. 

content note

This exhibition addresses important issues around sensual identities and lived experience. We'd like you to know before your visit that some images on display include nudity and sexual imagery. Under 16s must be accompanied by an adult.

This exhibition contains latex and may cause allergic reactions.

what visitors say


Exhibition installation at Autograph

Heels, 1993

Self-Portrait on Chez Lounge, 1998

Black Circus Master, 1997

Malcom and Chris, 1992


about the artist


Ajamu (1963, Huddersfield, UK) is a photographic artist, scholar, archive curator and radical sex activist best known for his imagery that challenges dominant ideas around black masculinity, gender, sexuality, and representation of black LGBTQ+ people in the United Kingdom.

He is the co-founder of rukus! Federation and the rukus! Black Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer + Archive and one of a few leading specialists on Black British LGBTQ+ history, heritage, and cultural memory in the UK. In 1997, Ajamu was the Autograph x Lightwork artist-in-residence in Syracuse, USA developing a series of self-portraits during his residency. He studied at the Jan van Eyck Akademie, Maastricht, The Netherlands, and is currently an PhD candidate at Royal College of Art, London. In 2022 Ajamu was canonised by The Trans Pennine Traveling Sisters as The Patron Saint of Darkrooms in his hometown Huddersfield and he received an honorary fellowship from the Royal photographic society.

Ajamu’s works have been shown in exhibitions in museums, galleries, and alternatives spaces across globally since the 1990s, his recent solo exhibitions include Archival Senoria at Cubitt Gallery, 2021. As well as included in several thematic group Very Private? at Charleston House, 2022; Fashioning Masculinities, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2022; Kiss My Genders, Hayward Gallery, 2019; Get Up, Stand Up Now, Somerset House, 2019; On our Backs: The Revolution Art of Queer Sex Work, Leslie Lohman Museum, 2019. His works are currently on show as part of the group exhibition A Hard Man is Good to Find! at The Photographers’ Gallery, London. Ajamu’s works are held in collections including Tate, London; Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow; Autograph, London; Neuberger Museum of Art, New York amongst others. His second monograph AJAMU: ARCHIVE was published in 2021.

Read More


How do you become a Patron Saint of Darkrooms?

Thu 6 Jul, 6-8pm
A celebration (with sparkle and joy) of Ajamu's exhibition, personal journeys and liberating representations of the black queer body

Read more | Book tickets

Exhibition opening

Thu 27 Apr, 6 - 8pm
Join us for the launch of two new exhibitions at Autograph's gallery this spring

Read more



Everyone is welcome at Autograph. Planning a visit? Have a look at our Visit Us page to find out more about getting to the gallery, accessibility and more.


Accessible VEnue

Autograph welcomes people with all types of disabilities.


Group visits

Book a group visit to Autograph's gallery here


Step free

Our building and entrance is step free. A wheelchair accessible lift goes to all floors.

digital CONTENT

Online Gallery: Pleasure as Activism

View a gallery of Ajamu's photographs from his recent book ARCHIVE

View gallery

Pleasure for Pleasure’s Sake

Jason Okundaye considers the significance of queer erotica in the archives of Black cultural memory

Read blog post | 4 min read

VR Visit

Take a virtual tour of highlights from the exhibition

See more

Artist Residency

Ajamu was the 2023 Autograph / Light Work artist-in-residence

Read more

Rotimi Fani-Kayode, City Gent

Find out more about Fani-Kayode's photograph in our collection highlights

Read more

Ajamu, Ecce Homo

Find out more about Ajamu's series in our collection highlights


Online Gallery: Ecce Homo [Behold the Man]

View the full series of portraits representing and celebrating black trans men 

View gallery

Black Trans Masculinities in Ajamu's Ecce Homo

Art historian Edwin Coomasaru considers how Black British trans masculinities are shaped by and resist histories of racist colonialism, reimagining gender itself as unfixed and unbound

Read blog post | 8 min read



Ajamu X Limited Edition Print

Power Drill Heels, 2021
10" x 8" signed print
Exclusively available from Autograph
Edition of 30, £360

Shop now

Ajamu Artist Newspaper

Published to accompany The Patron Saint of Darkrooms


Shop now

also at Autograph

Eric Gyamfi: Fixing Shadows – Julius and I

A new exhibition, 28 Apr – 2 Sep 2023
How photography can shift meanings and histories – ‘fixing shadows’ of legacy, absence, and revival.

Read more

share your thoughts

Have a few moments to take a quick survey? Your feedback is invaluable

Take survey


The exhibition title The Patron Saint of Darkrooms reflects a title bestowed on the artist by the The Trans Pennine Traveling Sisters.

supported by

Banner image: Ajamu, Power Drill Heels [detail], 2021. © and courtesy Ajamu.

Exhibition preview: 1) Ajamu: The Patron Saint of Darkrooms exhibition at Autograph. 28 April - 2 September 2023. Curated by Mark Sealy in association with Bindi Vora. Photograph by Kate Elliott. 2-5) All images © and courtesy Ajamu

About the artist: Ajamu signing prints of Power Drill Heels at Autograph, 2021. Courtesy Renée Mussai. Residency: Ajamu X, Aura [detail], 1992. © and courtesy Ajamu X.

Coming up at Autograph: Eric Gyamfi, from the ongoing series Fixing Shadows: Julius and I [detail]. Courtesy the artist. The original photograph of Julius Eastman used in this series is by Donald W. Burkhardt.