Handsworth Self Portrait

The original pictures were edited down to the 44 images shown here and exhibited at The Triangle Gallery in Birmingham, Holyhead School, the Untitled Gallery Sheffield and more. Recently to mark the 40th Anniversary in 2019 they were also in a show at Mac Birmingham.

The Background

In 1979 working with Derek Bishton and John Reardon we edited wrote and photographed Talkin’ Blues an oral history debunking of a report for the police which blamed most criminality in Handsworth on a few hundred Rastafarians. We also self-published Movement of Jah People by John Plummer, the first book to explain the Rastafarian faith to a wider audience. All of this and our arts and community contacts together with our experience of Handsworth led us to an understanding that the media and photographers were not representing Handsworth as we knew it.

Of course, as an inner city area Handsworth had its fair share of problems including disturbances, racial tension and poor housing and lack of jobs and opportunity but we also knew that it had a vibrant multi-cultural culture with many good people making positive community contributions. So, we started searching for a way to reflect that positivity using photography.

We used a plain backdrop and no lights and gave participants a cable release to fire the shutter. It’s been gratifying to meet many of the people in the original pictures over the years. It turns out to be an important snapshot of how that community in Handsworth was 40 years ago including the clothes and styles – remember flared trousers?