Black Chronicles II

30 November 2014 - 31 January 2015

Centro de Fotografía

Montevideo, Uruguay

Touring exhibition

Our acclaimed exhibition Black Chronicles II is touring to Uruguay.

Autograph ABP presents Black Chronicles II, a new exhibition exploring black presences in 19th and early 20th-century Britain, through the prism of studio portraiture – continuing our critical mission of writing black photographic history.

Drawing on the metaphor of the chronicle, these photographs present new knowledge and offer different ways of seeing the black subject in Victorian Britain, and contribute to an ongoing process of redressing persistent ‘absence’ within the historical record.

Many of the images on display have very recently been unearthed as part of our current archive research programme, The Missing Chapter - a three-year project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This is the second exhibition in a series dedicated to excavating archives, which began with ‘The Black Chronicles’ in 2011.

A highlight of the show is a dedicated display of thirty portraits of members of The African Choir, who toured Britain between 1891-93, seen here for the first time. Perhaps the most comprehensive series of images rendering the black subject in Victorian Britain, these extraordinary portraits on glass plate negatives by the London Stereoscopic Company have been deeply buried in the Hulton Archive, unopened for over 120 years. These are presented alongside those of other visiting performers, dignitaries, servicemen, missionaries, students and many as yet unidentified black Britons. Their presence bears direct witness to Britain’s colonial and imperial history and the expansion of Empire.

Black Chronicles II is a public showcase of Autograph ABP’s commitment to continuous critical enquiry into archive images which have been overlooked, under-researched or simply not recognised as significant previously, but which are highly relevant to black representational politics and cultural history today. For the first time acomprehensive body of portraits depicting black people prior to the beginning of the second world war are brought together in this exhibition - identified through original research carried out in the holdings of national public archives and by examining privately owned collections. This research also coincides with Autograph ABP’s continuous search for the earliest photographic image of a black person created in the UK.

‘The curatorial premise of Black Chronicles II is to open up critical enquiry into the archive, continue the debate around black subjectivity within Britain, examine the ideological conditions in which such photographs were produced and the purpose they serve as agents of communication.’ - Curators’ note

‘They are here because you were there. There is an umbilical connection. There is no understanding Englishness without understanding its imperial and colonial dimensions.’ - Stuart Hall, 2008

Curated by

Black Chronicles II is curated by Renée Mussai and Mark Sealy

Research for Black Chronicles II and The Missing Chapter project is led by Renée Mussai at Autograph ABP.

Renée Mussai is Curator and Head of Archive at Autograph ABP. She is currently a PhD candidate at UCL; her research is concerned with black portraiture, photography and the archive.

Mark Sealy MBE is the Director of Autograph ABP. He is currently a PhD candidate at Durham University; his research focuses on photography and cultural violence.

About The Missing Chapter Project

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Missing Chapter aims to augment the photographic narratives of migration and cultural diversity in relation to Britain’s colonial history, and disseminate a visual heritage that is fragmented and often dislocated.  Working in partnership with major cultural institution such as the National Portrait Gallery, the Hulton Archive and the National Army Museum (as well as other collaborators), Autograph ABP are researching examples of photographic evidence of black presences in Britain dating back to the earliest images produced since the invention of photography in 1839.

The Missing Chapter builds on the concept of ‘animating the past to imagine the future’, bringing the photographic archive out of the gallery/museum context and into direct engagement with communities. It offers a range of participatory activities and innovative public displays, aimed at overcoming recognised social barriers to access and offering new kinds of opportunities for diverse audiences to experience the content of Autograph ABP’s own, and other associated collections; our outreach initiatives provide opportunities for volunteers and young people to become actively involved in producing creative work, while others receive training in research skills, digital preservation and collection care.

A dedicated programme over three years includes a series of temporary large scale image projections staged in public spaces, pop up and gallery based exhibitions, the development of digital learning tools, online portfolios, an interactive app for mobile devices, and a forthcoming publication.

Black Chronicles II represents the first public showcase of The Missing Chapter research programme.

Touring exhibition

Additional Info

Centro de Fotografía
San José 1360. CP 11200
Intendencia de Montevideo. Uruguay

T: [598 2] 1950 1219
M: CdF@imm.gub.uy
W: http://cdf.montevideo.gub.uy

  • John Xiniwe and Albert Jonas, London Stereoscopic Company studios, 1891. Courtesy of © Hulton Archive/Getty Images
  • Eleanor Xiniwe, The African Choir, 1891. London Stereoscopic Company. Courtesy of © Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesArchive/Getty Images