Like other black and queer histories, the presented visual narratives of black trans men tend not to reflect a myriad of experiences and complex, nuanced representations. In the arts and mainstream/popular culture, there remains a problematic and oppressive marginalisation of black trans voices and lived experiences. Against this background, Ajamu produced Ecce Homo [Behold The Man], a series of portraits representing and celebrating black trans men from all walks of life on their own terms.
A misleading visual history and one-dimensional representation deny the visibility of black trans people, especially black trans men who are African, Caribbean, and black British. The omission of these multiple experiences mirrors the UK’s institutional inability to genuinely embrace people who inhabit the intersection of specifically race and gender identities.
Ajamu is an acclaimed fine art studio-based, darkroom-led photographic artist and archive curator. For more than 30 years 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. His work, theoretical provocations, and aesthetics unapologetically celebrate black queer bodies, the erotic, sex, desire, and the politics of pleasure. His black and white images also pose the imagination, fiction, and play in opposition to the constant framing of black queer bodies and nuanced lived experiences within a sociological framework.
Ajamu developed this series of ten platinum prints during the Autograph x Light Work residency in March 2023; they are now a part of our collection and feature in Autograph's current exhibition Ajamu: The Patron Saint of Darkrooms, where they are being displayed for the first time.
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.
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