Published on April 17th, 2019 | by John OMeara0
HANDSWORTH SELF PORTRAIT: I KNOW WHO I AM, WHO ARE YOU?
We have seen a lot in recent weeks about a group of Handworth photographers who decided 4o years ago to let the people of Handsworth photograph themselves, and who now have an exhibition of that project at the Midland Arts Centre. It has provided some neat headlines about ‘the first selfies’ etc, and some powerful nostalgia for those who were involved. What I didn’t anticipate was that it would still have the power to astonish me when I saw the full range of images up close for the first time.
Almost every person in every portrait seems to be saying something with their expressions and attitude, the words form in your mind as you look – it’s as if giving them the camera has enabled them to present themselves as they really are, to be seen as they want to be seen. The pictures are vibrant with self-awareness, dignity, assertion, and delight – counteracting the negative stereotypes of the time, and questionning those who held them. Go and see for yourself, and they will say something distinct to you.
At the bottom of this page you can click a link to see a video of Gurdip, who grew up on Grove Lane and now works at the MAC, giving his impromptu recollections of many of the people in the exhibition who he knew personally. The exhibition runs until 2nd June, open over Easter, and entry is free; it ends with a talk by one of the photographers Derek Bishton (see details in the text below). Note: my crude snapshots don’t reflect the quality and impact of the originals.