Artist Residency

Ajamu on residency

March 2023

Light Work / Autograph Artist-in-Residence

ABOUT THE residency

Artist Ajamu was  selected for the 2023 Autograph / Light Work artist residency, to support the development of his exhibition Ajamu: The Patron Saint of Darkrooms at Autograph.

Every year, Autograph teams up with Light Work in Syracuse, New York – a non-profit, artist-run organisation providing direct support to emerging and under-represented artists working in photography. Autograph selects an artist to go on a residency at Light Work’s studios to pursue their personal projects: an exhibition, publication, printing, or even just space to think. They are provided with travel expenses, a stipend for living and production, a private darkroom, an apartment, and 24-hour access to Light Work’s photo and computer lab facilities. The residency has been running annually since 1996.

Ajamu is an acclaimed fine art studio-based, darkroom-led photographic artist and archive curator. 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 our black queer bodies and nuanced lived experiences within a sociological framework.

Autograph has worked with Ajamu since the early 1990s, and he was previously was the Light Work / Autograph artist-in-residence in 1997.


Ajamu: The Patron Saint of Darkrooms

Free, 28 Apr – 2 Sep 2023
Unapologetically celebrating black queer bodies and pleasure as activism

Read more

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

related 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

in partnership with

Banner image: Ajamu X, Aura [detail], 1992. © and courtesy Ajamu X.

Images on page: 1) Ajamu X, Power Drill Heels, 2021. © and courtesy Ajamu X. 

About the artist: Ajamu signing prints of Power Drill Heels at Autograph, 2021. Courtesy Renée Mussai.