Oxford Companion to Black British History: Photography, 2007

Armet Francis Another important practitioner who must be regarded as a pioneer of black British photography is Armet Francis. Born in Jamaica in 1945, by the early 1970s Francis had become an important chronicler not only of black people in Britain but of people of African origin throughout the world.  His most celebrate work was The Black Triangle, a seminal exhibition and publishing project of the mid 1980s. The book comprised three pictorial sections, each consisting of photographs taken by Francis on his travels through Africa (Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, and Zimbabwe), the Caribbean (Barbados and Jamaica), and Britain and the United States. Taken between 1969 and 1981, these photographs offer an invaluable insight into aspects of the late 20th-century African diaspora. In Francis’s photographs we can chart the dynamic rise of Rastafarianism and the attendant ‘dread’ culture, as it developed amongst communities in Jamaica and the United Kingdom. We see dancers and performers in Lagos, in London, in New York. We also see portraits of what we might call ordinary people, proud, confident, self-assured witnesses to the post-independence years of hope and optimism that typified continental and diasporic African identities during the 1960s and 1970s. Celebrated too, within Francis’s photographs is the new independence of Zimbabwe.

Horace Ové Horace Ové must also be considered a pioneering figure of black British photography. He was born in Trinidad and Tobago in 1939 and came to London as a young man. Over the course of the 1970s he became known as one of a small number of leading black independent film-makers to emerge in Britain. He is widely respected for his pioneering and ground-breaking work as a director of films such as Pressure. Made in 1975, the film tackles the issues that came to shape and influence the lives of a new generation of black Britons. A timely, engaging, and deeply empathetic work, Pressure was, a remains, a gritty and dynamic study of a generation in crisis.

Equally important is Ové's work as a photographer. During his time in London and the culturally heady days of the 1960s and 1970s, he became responsible for some of the most remarkable and candid photographs reflecting the emergence of black Britain. He photographed important black literary, political, and cultural figures of the period, both British, such as C. L. R. James and Darcus Howe, and American, such as James Baldwin. He also captured a rare spectacle – Stokely Carmichael, Allen Ginsberg, and Michael X at an early Black Power gathering in London in 1967….

...Perhaps his most remarkable photographs are his studies of the self-styled firebrand Michael X. The historical significance and importance of the photographic body of work produced by Ové cannot be overstated.

The full version of the above text, written by Eddie Chambers, appeared as the Photography entry [pp. 363 - 366] in the Oxford Companion to Black British History, Oxford University Press, 2007, edited by David Dabydeen, John Gilmore, and Cecily Jones