In the two decades before the end of the millennium, Black female photographers and artists played a significant role in shaping the cultural landscape of the UK, fostering a radical and unique voice that was a key driving force of the independent art scene of the 1980s and 1990s.
With their work largely underrepresented across established institutions, publishers and art dealers, these women came to embody a spirit of self-organisation and community, curating their own exhibitions, events and publications. Artists include Poulomi Desai, Addela Khan, Ingrid Pollard, Maud Sulter, Maxine Walker and many others.
In June 2019, Joy Gregory gave an illustrated gallery lecture at Autograph about this legacy. At this sold-out event, she shared the cultural landscape at the time and some of the artists creating work. Systemic archiving before the internet was an unaffordable luxury for many, and the domain of museums and institutions. As a result, much of this history has gone uncollected and unarchived.
We have partnered with independent visual art publisher MACK to produce the first book dedicated to this legacy, with Joy Gregory as editor. For the first time, Shining Lights will present a broad review of the key artists of the time, offering a unique record of this radical and ground-breaking period of British photographic history.
Trying to find images to illustrate the 'Shining Lights' talk to coincide with Maxine Walker's 2019 show at Autograph taught me that if you don't tell your story as far as the world is concerned it never happened.
It has been a delight to rediscover the diversity of practice and work produced in the UK during that period by this group of incredible photographers.
Celebrated for her pioneering work on self-identity and auto-portraiture in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Gregory’s intimate engagement with ideas around blackness, femininity, and beauty is epitomised in her seminal series Autoportrait (1989/90). Autograph’s first artist commission, the series was a direct response to the lack of representation of black women within lifestyle consumer magazines.
Her subsequent body of work Objects of Beauty (1992-1995) delved into questions of aesthetics and body politics, combining the Victorian process of kallitypes to capture a range of objects often associated with feminine beauty and constraints of Western fashion industry. Similarly, themed artistic investigations continued with series such as Girl Thing (2000-2005), Cinderella Tours Europe, (1997 – 2001), and Fairest, (1998/2010). Gregory has worked and exhibited widely both in the UK and internationally and participated in numerous biennales and festivals over the years, including the 2017 Venice Biennale where her work was represented in the off-site Diaspora Pavilion. Recent works include Overlooked and Underreported (2017), Coloured Girls (2018), Home (2018), The World is a Handkerchief (2019) and Barbie at Sixty (2019-20). Alongside the continuation of a long-term project in the Kalahari and several collaborative projects in development, Gregory has recently completed a commission for the Black Cultural Archives Breaking Barriers (2019-20). Her work is represented in the collections of Autograph, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Arts Council Collection, UK; The Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia; and Yale British Art Collection, USA.
You can follow Gregory on Instagram, and see more work on her website.
Nudrat Afza, Brenda Agard, Jananne Al-Ani, Margaret Banton, Jennie Baptiste, Sabera Bham, Zarina Bhimji, Sutapa Biswas, Mohini Chandra, Lisa Cheung, Xenia Demetriou, Poulomi Desai, Suki Dhanda, Lola Flash, Joy Gregory, Leslie Hakim-Dowek, Mona Hatoum, Claudette Holmes, Laxmi Jamdagni, Tara Jang, Joy Kahumbu, Mumtaz Karimjee, Roshini Kempadoo, Maria Kheirkhah, Chila Kumari Burman, Maria Luiza Melo Carvalho, Anita J. Mckenzie, Marcia Michael, Sherlee Mitchell, Jacqueline Moran Daubercies, Henna Nadeem, Glynis A. Neslen, Virginia Nimarkoh, Pratibha Parmar, Bharti Parmar, Amina Patel, Symrath Patti, Maria Pedro, Eileen Perrier, Cristina Piza, Ingrid Pollard (MBE), Samena Rana, Suzanne Roden, Zineb Sedira, Anna Sherbany, Marlene Smith, Veena Stephenson, Delta Streete, Maud Sulter, Annette Sylvester, Mitra Tabrizian, Menika Van Der Poorten, Merle Van Den Bosch, Maxine Walker, Sharron Wallace, Geraldine Walsh, and Carole Wright.
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