Following the Second World War, thousands of people from Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean were invited by the British government to relocate to the UK to address labour shortages. They, along with their descendants, are often referred to as the Windrush generation, after the ship HMT Empire Windrush on which the first group arrived in 1948.
In 2020, Autograph acquired a portfolio of 37 works from the TopFoto archives, some of which can be seen here for the first time, punctuated with the profound words of Professor Stuart Hall. These works share the journey before, during and after arriving in the UK. These important photographs, alongside their stories, are now part of Autograph’s permanent Collection of Photography that aims to preserve the legacy of important narratives that have contributed to British history. A selection of works will also be displayed on Autograph's building from 5 January 2023.
Quotes from Professor Stuart Hall originally published in 1992 in the essay ‘Re-Construction Work’ in Ten.8 magazine, Vol 2, No 3: ‘Critical Decade - Black British Photography in the 80s’, pp.106–113.
People sitting on their luggage waiting to be met… or to recognise a friend or an unexpected relative or even just for an acknowledgment from a friendly face amongst the crowds with their bulging suitcases and straw baskets. Men, women, and children already battened down against the freezing weather by the ubiquitous wearing of hats.
These people have just survived the longest, hardest journey in their lives: the journey to another identity. They are people ‘in transition’ to a new state of mind and body: migrant hood… they have torn themselves up by the roots… half the family is left behind and nobody knows when or whether they will ever be united again.
…the arrival of black people from the Caribbean on the boat trains… where the steamers spewed out their human cargo at the end of their long journeys – Kingston via Southampton, Avonmouth Bristol and Liverpool docks then by steam-train through the English rural and urban industrial heartland, to Paddington, Victoria and Waterloo.
The shelter was used to house Caribbean migrants including passengers arriving on the Empire Windrush in 1948, who stayed in the shelter while seeking accommodation elsewhere. Many eventually settled in nearby Brixton, the site of the nearest labour exchange.
Free outdoor display at Autograph, London
5 Jan - Sep 2023
A new display sharing the journey of the Windrush generation before, during and after arriving in the UK
All images are from TopFoto, one of the world’s great independent photographic archives, since 1927. In 2020 TopFoto was awarded a Cultural Recovery Grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to protect their internationally significant collections. Find out more at topfoto.co.uk
Thanks to National Lottery players
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