For more than four decades, Armet Francis’ mission in photography has been to document the African diaspora. A Jamaican-British photographer with an acute understanding of black consciousness, his images are life-affirming moments that celebrate the resilience and survival of African diasporic cultures.
Francis immigrated as a young child from Jamaica to Britain in the 1950s. This experience of being unrooted, and politically alienated produced a profound sense of dislocation and impact on his life. Feeling culturally displaced, Francis turned to photography as an aid to share his desire to connect with the rich and diverse Pan-African world.
He later developed the idea of ‘The Black Triangle’ to guide his photographic practice from 1969. In the artist’s own words the concept was forged through a “personal need to discover the dimensions of the experiences of Black people…the triangle first came to me in thoughts of the slave trade route, that is how I came to live in the Triangle: Africa, the Americas and Europe…I had to capture it through my camera, through my work…A man reacting to his destiny."
Francis’ photographic journey over 40 years encapsulates the fragmented experiences of diasporic communities. His 1970s Brixton Market fashion shoots are playful and rare frames of black joy and celebration. His 2008 portraits of those who arrived on the Empire Windrush are critical interventions that gave names to the faces of those who journeyed on that historic voyage that changed Britain forever. He photographed young black Londoners who took to the streets in protest at the lack of justice for those that perished in the New Cross Fire of 1981, and political activists such as Angela Davis. Critically, when viewed through the canon of British photography Francis has dedicated his long career giving visibility to a proud, radical individuality.
2023 marks 35 years since Autograph began working as a vanguard organisation within the visual arts. Since 1988, we have championed photography that explores issues of race, identity, representation, human rights and social justice. Francis was one of the founding signatories of Autograph, and Armet Francis: Beyond the Black Triangle commences a yearlong celebration highlighting Autograph’s ongoing commitment to curate and preserve the legacy of practitioners, like Francis, who have recorded important narratives that have contributed to British history.
Who gets visibility in the public realm? What gets forgotten or rendered (in)visible? How can photographs refuse erasure and act as documents which anchor a subject in a time and place? Share your photos and join the conversation.Find out more
Armet Francis (born 1945, Jamaica) is best known for his social documentary, advertising, and fashion images. He began working in a commercial photographic studio as a teenager, going on to forge a career shooting commissions for holiday camps, and assignments for The Times Magazine, The Sunday Times, BBC and Channel 4 amongst others.
His early images offer a personal record of the world around him, capturing the essence of black British identity; in 1969 he began his now celebrated project The Black Triangle: People of the African Diaspora and Children of the Black Triangle.
Francis’s works have been shown in exhibitions including Life Between Islands: Caribbean-British Art 1950s-Now, Tate Britain (2021); Get Up, Stand Up Now! Generations of Black Creative Pioneers, Somerset House (2019); In a Different Light: New Acquisitions, Autograph, London (2017); Staying Power: Photographs of Black British Experience 1950s-1990s, Black Cultural Archives and V&A (2015); Roots to Reckoning: The Photography of Armet Francis, Neil Kenlock and Charlie Phillips, Museum of London (2005); Reflections of the Black Experience: 10 Black Photographers, Brixton Art Gallery (1986); Armet Francis: The Black Triangle Series: People of the African Diaspora, The Photographers' Gallery (1983); Armet Francis, Commonwealth Institute (1974) amongst others.
His works are held in public collections including Autograph, British Library, Museum of London, Science Museum Group and the Victoria and Albert Museum amongst others.
Autograph is a place to see things differently. Since 1988, we have championed photography that explores issues of race, identity, representation, human rights and social justice, sharing how photographs reflect lived experiences and shape our understanding of ourselves and others.Donate Join our mailing list