Staying Power at the BCA

Arts co editor, Ruth Waters, finds out more about the latest exhibition at the Black Cultural Archives.

Normski 1966 Cynthia M. Prescod Mum at home in Primrose Hill London 1986
Normski, Cynthia M. Prescod Mum at home in Primrose Hill London 1986

The new exhibition at the Black Cultural Archives is the culmination of a seven-year collaboration between the BCA  and the V&A to acquire a collection of photographs that increases the representation of black photographers and subjects. Whilst Staying Power is exhibited at Brixton’s BCA, in South Kensington the V&A will also present an exhibition of the same title drawn from the new collection of photographs from 16 February – 24 May 2015.

Staying Power explores the work of a selection of photographers who were documenting black experiences, from mass migration following the arrival of the Windrush in 1948 to the late 1990s, and features 14 photographers: Raphael Albert, Norman ‘Normski’ Anderson, Jenny Baptiste, Pogus Cesar, Armet Francis, Colin Jones, Dennis Morris, Charlie Phillips, Ingrid Pollard, Al Vandenberg and Gavin Watson. Alongside the photographs there is also be a collection of oral histories from a range of subjects including the photographers themselves, their relatives and the people depicted in the images.

Dr Kimberly F Keith at the BCA. Photo credit: Sharron Wallace
Dr Kimberly F Keith at the BCA. Photo credit: Sharron Wallace

The curator of Staying Power is Dr Kimberly F. Keith. Dr Kimberly has worked in museums for fifteen years, both in the UK and USA, and has developed educational programmes for at-risk youth and diverse audiences. Speaking to the Brixton Bugle, she said “Staying Power is a relatively small project that has the large ambition of creating change in the traditional canon of the history of photography, by including black photographers and black subjects in the V&A’s collection.”

Through the exhibition Dr Kimberly hopes to “expand who is included and who tells the story. We, black people, are directing the practices of representation, and that is a significant action and achievement. I’m so proud to have been a part of the collaborative partnership between the BCA and the V&A.”

James Barnor, Mike Eghan Piccadilly Circus 1967
James Barnor, Mike Eghan Piccadilly Circus 1967

It’s not just photographs in the exhibition. Victoria Northbridge, BCA Collections Manager, explains that Staying Power has allowed the archives to present materials from within their collection that complement and relate to the themes in the exhibition. “It’s a wonderful platform to showcase our periodicals, including lifestyle, fashion and music magazines, which people may not realise we hold. Also, the oral history interviews from the photographers are excellent and share the history behind the photographs, as well as stories of how the photographer were inspired to begin their work.”

Speaking of how the exhibition has been received so far Omari Okwulu, Black Cultural Archives Trainee, told the Bugle “it’s really nice to see how many people are engaging with the subject material and photographs.”

Staying Power runs until Tuesday 30 June 2015 at Black Cultural Archives, Windrush Square. Admission is free for all.