Raphael Albert was born on the Caribbean island of Grenada in 1935. He was the youngest of 10 siblings and struggled to make a life on the island - selling his artwork to tourists on the beach and sweeping out a photographer’s studio were his main sources of income before he came to England.
In an obituary published in The Guardian in December 2009, his friend Julianne Henry wrote: “He had all his possessions, including an old Kodak camera, in one suit case. In an age when it was taken for granted that when coming to Britain from the Caribbean, you would take a job on London Transport, Raphael enrolled at college instead. He chose photography and attended Ealing Technical College (now Thames Valley University) in west London, working part-time at Lyons cake factory in Hammersmith.”
Taking photographs for local dance promoters secured him his first serious assignment – photographing Miss Jamaica for the West Indian World newspaper – and he also took pictures for the Gleaner, Caribbean Times and New World. In 1984, he launched Charisma magazine, which featured exclusively his own models.
Julianne Henry recalls: “The vibrant social scene in the black community led him to launch Miss West Indies in Great Britain, which soon became popular. Albert went on to promote Miss Grenada (UK), Model of the Year, Miss Teenager of the West Indies in Great Britain, and Miss Black and Beautiful. He remained a formidable presence as a promoter and photographer well into his 60s."
After Raphael Albert’s death in 2009, Autograph ABP began working with the artist’s daughters, Vikkie Albert and Susan Ibuanokpe, to preserve and curate his extensive collection of film negatives and prints. A portfolio of more than 100 photographs is now represented as part of the Autograph ABP Archive & Research Centre. The forthcoming exhibition will feature a wide selection of photographs from Albert’s archive.
Renée Mussai, Autograph ABP’s Curator and Head of Archive says: “Exquisitely bold and imbued with a revolutionary sensuality, Albert’s photographs capture an aura of hedonistic confidence in a new generation of West Indians in London, fuelled by complex body politics of beauty, femininity and desire. His images offer a unique insight into the black experience, between the public space and the private domain.”