John Goto
Lovers’ Rock

27 October - 2nd November 2014

Lewisham Shopping Centre

London, UK

Visit Lewisham Shopping Centre to see a selection of John Goto's acclaimed Lovers' Rock portraits, created in Lewisham, South London in 1977.

We're looking for the people featured in these photographs, get in touch if you recognise any friends or acquaintances from days gone by! 

As a young artist, Goto taught evening classes in photography and film for two years at Lewisham Youth Centre, where these portraits were made.

Photographed against a plain backdrop, the sitters show an exuberant, supportive and friendly community at odds with the prevailing media images of black youths at the time. The unselfconscious engagement in front of the camera can be, in part, explained by their familiarity with the photographer, who was not much older than the sitters.

The series is entitled Lovers' Rock after a musical sub-genre that grew out of the South London reggae scene in the mid-1970s. In 1975, the singer Louisa Mark cut the first Lovers Rock hit with ‘Caught You in a Lie’.

Autograph ABP has published the first book of this work, which will be available at the exhibition and can be purchased in our Shop.

Acclaim for Lovers' Rock

Goto's wonderfully engaging portraits offer an important counter narrative to the dominant image of black youth in south London during the mid 70s, which constantly framed them as wildly delinquent. These photographs literally turn the table on that myth.

Mark Sealy MBE, Director of Autograph ABP

After 35 years, Goto's portraits have acquired a special gravity. They are powerful and important for the explicit challenge they present to the rules of racial interpretation. This is because racism always denies individuality to those it subordinates. A black person is primarily a type, the representative of a group. Here in these images, the photographers loving eye has allowed, even encouraged, his sitters to cultivate the dimensions of individual subjectivity that racism simply cannot accommodate.

Professor Paul Gilroy

The far-right National Front attempted to stage a march across Lewisham in protest against a multi-cultural Britain and met with significant resistance, the resulting conflict leading to 214 arrests. It was within this political climate that John Goto’s Lovers’ Rock series came into being, photographing young black people growing up amidst such unrest.

Oxford Culture Review

I set up a makeshift studio in a room adjacent to the dancehall where I photographed the young people, readied for their evening out. So the motivation wasn’t for posterity, career or money, it was because I thought it the artist’s job to tell of their time, as best they could, and this was a part of my time.

John Goto, interviewed for Photomonitor

About the artist

John Goto is a British artist best known for his pioneering photo-digital artworks, which address a range of historical, cultural and socio-political subjects.

Less well-known are his early analogue works, which are the focus of the present exhibition.

Goto has staged solo London exhibitions at The National Portrait Gallery, Photographers' Gallery and Tate Britain, and has exhibited widely internationally. He is currently Professor of Fine Art at the University of Derby.

Lovers' Rock book

Autograph ABP is publishing a book of John Goto's Lovers Rock series of portraits, with essays by distinguished cultural historians Professor Paul Gilroy and Lola Young, Baroness Young of Hornsey, OBE.

Buy online >

Press contact

For further information and images, please contact Lois Olmstead at Autograph ABP

T: +44 (0)20 7720 9200
E: lois@autograph-abp.co.uk

Additional Info

Lewisham Shopping Centre
Molesworth Street
London SE13 7HB

T: 020 8852 0094
E: lewisham@landsecurities.com

10am - 5pm daily


  • Lovers' Rock book, published by Autograph ABP
  • John Goto, Lovers' Rock. Lewisham, 1977