Raphael Albert
Miss Black and Beautiful

8 July - 24 September 2016

Autograph ABP, Rivington Place

London, UK

Free exhibition

Autograph APB is proud to present the first major solo exhibition of photographs by the late Raphael Albert – cultural promoter, entrepreneur and photographer.

For more than three decades from the late 1960s to the early 1990s, Albert organised and documented numerous black beauty pageants and other cultural events in London, while building up a portfolio of photographs of aspiring models. His long and successful career as a promoter and chronicler of pageants included the establishment of Miss Black and Beautiful, Miss West Indies in Great Britain, and Miss Grenada.

These competitions celebrated the global ‘Black is Beautiful’ aesthetic of the 1970s in a local west London context: paired with the obligatory bathing costumes and high heels, Albert’s contestants often sported large Afro hairstyles, inventing and reinventing themselves on stage while articulating a particular and multifaceted black femininity as part of a widely contested and ambiguous cultural performance.

Not only did the pageants offer the opportunity to create a distinct space for Afro-Caribbean self-fashioning - a wager against invisibility in response to contemporaneous mainstream fashion and life-style platforms where black women were largely absent or at best marginal - they also represented a site to challenge conventional notions of beauty implicated in the social, cultural, and political contexts of the time. Albert’s photographs serve as testament to this profound moment of self-articulation and collective celebration in London’s pan Afro-Caribbean communities.

This historical archive offers a unique and fascinating collection of rarely seen photographs that document the ambivalent cultural performance of gendered and raced identities at a particular historical conjuncture. Imbued with an exquisite, revolutionary sensuality and a certain joie de vivre, Raphael Albert’s photographs embody an aura of hedonistic confidence in a new generation of black women coming of age in Britain during the 1970s, fuelled by complex cultural politics of identity, difference and desire.’   - Renée Mussai, Curator

After Raphael Albert’s death in 2009, Autograph ABP began working with his daughters Victoria Albert and Susan Ibuanokpe to preserve and promote the late photographer’s extensive collection of uncatalogued negatives and prints. A dedicated portfolio of photographs is now represented as part of Autograph ABP’s Archive & Research Centre at Rivington Place.

The exhibition features over sixty modern and vintage prints, as well as archival ephemera.

About Raphael Albert

Raphael Albert (1935-2009) was born on the Caribbean island of Grenada. After moving to London in 1953, he studied photography at Ealing Technical College whilst working part-time at Lyons cake factory. Albert soon became a freelance photographer working for black British newspapers such as West Indian World – for whom one of his first assignments was documenting Miss Jamaica – as well as The Gleaner, Caribbean Times and New World.

In 1970 he established the popular Miss Black and Beautiful contest, followed by Miss West Indies in Great Britain, Miss Teenager of the West Indies in Great Britain and Miss Grenada. In addition to his production company Albert Promotions, he also founded his own magazine Charisma in 1984, and the associated Albert’s Girl Academy of Modelling.  Albert remained committed to documenting the West Indian communities in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham throughout his life, taking home-studio portrait photographs for local families, and avidly documenting weddings, christenings, and other social events. In 2007 Albert co-organised a Black History Month display of his and other photographers’ work entitled Miss West Indies in Great Britain: Celebrating 30 Years of Beauty Pageants (1963-1993) at the Hammersmith and Fulham Information Centre.  His work is now represented in the national collections of the V&A and TATE Britain.

Curated by Renée Mussai

Renée Mussai is Curator and Head of Archive & Exhibitions at Autograph ABP, London – where she manages a diverse collection of photographs and global programme of exhibition, publishing and research initiatives.

A curator and scholar with a special interest in African and diasporic practices, as well as Black British photographic history, she has organised numerous exhibitions in Europe, Africa and the US, including the critically acclaimed exhibition Black Chronicles II (2014, and touring). Her most recent publications include the monograph James Barnor: Ever Young (2015); forthcoming Autograph ABP books include Black Chronicles and The Photography Reader on Race, Rights & Representation (2016 and 2017 respectively), co-edited with Mark Sealy. Mussai lectures internationally on curatorial practice, photography, and cultural politics, and has been a regular guest curator and non-resident fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University since 2009, where she also serves on the Exhibitions and Acquisitions Committee of the newly established Cooper Gallery. Twice recipient of the Sofie- and Emanuel Fohn Fellowship, Mussai is presently a PhD candidate in Art History at University College London.

Visiting information

Autograph ABP, Rivington Place, London, EC2A 3BA

We are located in the heart of Shoreditch, a short walk from Old Street, Liverpool Street and Shoreditch High Street stations.
Buses: 26, 43, 48, 55, 67, 149, 205, 242 and 271

Exhibition opening times
Tues, Wed, Fri 11am – 6pm
Thurs 11am – 9pm,
Sat 12 – 6pm
The gallery is closed on Sundays, Mondays and Public Holidays

Entry to Rivington Place and all exhibitions is free. Our Gallery Assistants in the exhibition spaces are happy to answer questions about the exhibitions.

Rivington Place is fully accessible, with a lift and step free access to all areas of the building. Large print captions are available at reception. Please phone ahead to book a disabled parking bay, or if you would like to discuss your access needs: 020 7749 1240.

We welcome visitors with children to the gallery. Baby changing facilities are located in the ground floor toilet.

About Autograph ABP

Autograph ABP is a charity that works internationally in photography and film, cultural identity, race, representation and human rights.

Press and information

All press enquiries, or for further information about the exhibition please contact Lois Olmstead at

Autograph ABP

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

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