Sunday, July 20, 2014

Vanley Burke: By the Rivers of Birminam at FADA Gallery. Press Release.

Vanley Burke, Young men on See Saw, in Handsworth Park. 1970 -1979.
FADA Gallery is proud to host By the Rivers of Birminam a retrospective exhibition of 100 photographs by esteemed documentary photographer and cultural anthropologist, Dr Vanley Burke. Curated by Professor Lynda Morris (Research Professor Curation and Art History, Norwich University of the Arts),

Exhibition Opening: 18:00, Thursday 24 July 2014.

Presented by VIAD (Visual Identities in Art and Design) Research Centre the exhibition documents the history of the diasporic African-Caribbean community in Birmingham, and particularly the area of Handsworth, from 1968 to 2011. In its photographic detailing of the everyday lives of Birmingham’s black community for close on four decades, this profound visual record represents one of the most extensive and significant photographic archives of African-Caribbean life in postwar Britain. Burke’s intimate, insider’s view presents an alternative to the often sensationalist and biased representations of black Britons ubiquitously reproduced in the British mass media from the late 1960s through to the 1980s, providing a counter-narrative to those representations.

 Vanley Burke, Red Lion Bar, 1970-1979.

A touring exhibition, commissioned and produced by mac:birmingham, supported by Arts Council England, Norwich University of the Arts, The Bryant Trust and The Roughley Trust.

Portrait of a woman

Burke’s photographic practice raises questions that speak cogently to the broader politics of photographic representation, and more specifically as they pertain to documentary photography, as well as to postcolonial debates around the diasporic conditions of uprootedness, alienation, displacement, adaptation and belonging. 

African Liberation Day,
Handsworth Park 1977 (c.)

With acknowledgment of how the differing historical, political, geographic and social contexts in which photographs are taken significantly influence the ways in which they are read, Burke’s work finds strong resonance, despite their very different socio-political contexts, with many examples and archives of documentary photographs taken by South African photographers working during a similar time frame, whose photographs similarly represent – 
as historical records and activist undertakings – the socio-political evolution of the country. Issues and considerations raised by Burke’s photographic work have on-going relevance, in that contemporary photography in South Africa remains steeped in this documentary tradition, with a younger generation of photographers continuing to engage and further that legacy. Some do so as activists; others seek to capture the zeitgeist of their particular social domain or socio-economic political era, producing photographs that articulate the specificities of their space and place in a contemporary South African context.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a Public Programme of panel discussions, conversations and presentations, designed to engage with many of these complex questions and issues.

For further information on the exhibition and Public Programme schedule please contact Reshma Chhiba: reshmac@uj.ac.za (011) 559-1393.

Sunday 27 July: 3-5pm.
Panel Discussion 1.
Positions of Enunciation: Presenting, Reading and Receiving by The Rivers of Birminam.

Monday 28 July: 6-8pm.
Panel Discussion 2.
Voice: Agency, Relationality, Subjectivity, Difference

Tuesday 29 July: 6-7:30pm.
Critical Recordings: Photographing Black Britain - conversation between Vanley burke and Vron Ware

Wednesday 30 July: 5;30-7:30pm.
Panel discussion 3.
Repositioning the Archive

Thursday 31 July: 6-8pm.
Film Screening. Handsworth Songs (1986) Black audio film collective

Friday 1 August: 2-3pm
Public Walkabout: Vanley Burke presents a walkabout of his photographs on exhibition.

Tuesday 5 August: 6-8.30pm
Panel discussion 4
Need and impulse: The complex impetus to ‘capture’ and ‘shoot’

Dr. Vanley Burke
as cited at The Voice

Dr. Vanley Burke; Photographer and Cultural Anthropologist. Biography as cited at LEGACYTYNEANDWEAR: ARCHIVES

Vanley Burke has been living and working in Birmingham since 1965. He started to record the community around him in the late 1960's and has continued this personal journey to the present day. Burkes images represent a sensitive portrayal of people from Britain, Europe and South Africa. http://www.vanley.co.uk/

Vanley Burke's work has been published widely across the world, and featured heavily in The Times, The Guardian, The New York Times, and more. Burke has featured in over 60 major exhibitions across in Britain, Europe, America and South Africa.

He has used this visual medium to create a visual history of the African-Caribbean communities in and around the Midlands. Here he has captured that tension which is so hard to put into words, but which is understood by looking at this picture. The tension of the immigrant child of every generation spoke as loudly to me as if I were looking at reflection of my self as a boy. The young man, who could be standing in a park in Kingston, Jamaica, is marked by the stamp of nationality, the union flag that emblem of common identity that called families such as his like mine, out from their homelands in search of a better life.  This is Handsworth, but it could as easily be Tottenham, Brixton, or Peckham. It is the symbol of the hope of a generation.
David Lammy, MP Minister of Culture The Guardian - cited  at legacy archives org uk.

What matters is the photographers capacity to capture the truth the authenticity of experience, that is already there in the lives as it is being lived. However carefully the practice of documenting is conducted (and Vanley Burke is a highly skilled, highly professional, patient and experience practitioner) in the end what makes a memorable image in the documentary tradition is its fidelity to a reality, an experience, outside the means of representation, beyond the constructed photographic space of the recorded image.

Professor Stuart Hall - cited at legacy archives org uk.

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