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New Suffolk photographic exhibition celebrates Black Britannia

PUBLISHED: 18:24 01 October 2020 | UPDATED: 18:24 01 October 2020

English National Ballet dancer Shevelle Dynott, photographed in South London for inclusion in the 'Black Britannia' photographic exhibition.Photo: JOHN FERGUSON

English National Ballet dancer Shevelle Dynott, photographed in South London for inclusion in the 'Black Britannia' photographic exhibition.Photo: JOHN FERGUSON

copyright John Ferguson-not to be used without prior agreement.

Ipswich town centre will be hosting an inspirational new photographic exhibition for October celebrating the achievements of black Britons. Here’s a sample of the show which has been put together for Black History Month

Michael Fuller, QPM is a former Chief Constable of Kent Police. He was the first ethnic minority chief constable in the United Kingdom. Photo: JOHN FERGUSONMichael Fuller, QPM is a former Chief Constable of Kent Police. He was the first ethnic minority chief constable in the United Kingdom. Photo: JOHN FERGUSON

Pioneering black photography is going on display on Ipswich Cornhill this weekend for Black History Month.

Ground-breaking portrait photography by John Ferguson, one of Britain’s most talented black photographers and an acclaimed national press and documentary photographer, will be hosted outdoors in central Ipswich from Saturday October 3 to Sunday November 1.

The images have been selected from John’s acclaimed collection Black Britannia and focuses on Africans, and those of African descent, who have achieved success in contemporary Britain.

Valerie Ann Amos, Baroness Amos CH PC, photographed for the Black Britannia photo exhbition. She was created a Labour Life Peer in 1997, becoming Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council. Photo: JOHN FERGUSONValerie Ann Amos, Baroness Amos CH PC, photographed for the Black Britannia photo exhbition. She was created a Labour Life Peer in 1997, becoming Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council. Photo: JOHN FERGUSON

The collection of stunning images first went on show in central London in 2007 in an exhibition opened by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown. This October, Ipswich will be hosting a selection of 14 images from the collection in an immersive outdoor exhibition on the Cornhill.

John, an Ipswich resident and Fleet Street’s first black staff photographer, says: “Like many black people throughout history, the people in the photographs have overcome racism and discrimination, and the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade. This exhibition pays homage to their resilience and inspirational qualities and celebrates their incredible achievements.”

Black Britannia features striking photographic portraits of 55 inspirational Black Britons, who personally inspired John or have made great strides in public life. The portraits of black Britons feature people from all walks of life. Some are well-known faces such as Sir Trevor McDonald, Sir Lenny Henry, Naomi Campbell, Paul Ince, Lewis Hamilton, while others work in many more anonymous occupations such as head teachers, lawyers, business or sport.

British High Court judge Mrs Justice Linda Dobbs, photographed in London for inclusion in the 'Black Britannia' photographic exhibition. Photo: JOHN FERGUSONBritish High Court judge Mrs Justice Linda Dobbs, photographed in London for inclusion in the 'Black Britannia' photographic exhibition. Photo: JOHN FERGUSON

John has photographed hundreds of A-list celebrities but also felt that it was his privilege to be able to challenge social, economic and cultural inequality, poverty and injustice through his environmental photographic documentary practice.

He says what really captivates his imagination and passion is being able to spot that decisive moment that makes an image, one that tells a story within a single frame, or a series of frames, that will lead the viewer into someone else’s world or situation. Visual storytelling is John’s passion.

He says: “It was documentary genre of photography which really got me hooked, the ability to visually depict someone’s story with my camera, for me is a beautiful never- ending challenge and skill and one which I think will never leave me. My life is seen through visual stories, everywhere I turn, I see images, either stand-alone or complete picture stories. Sounds a little like a curse, but not to me, its images of people, the human condition that intrigues me the most, either through candid photography, staged or through portraiture”.

Ipswich photographer John Ferguson with the then prime minister Gordon Brown at the openning of the first Black Britannia exhibition in London Photo: JOHN FERGUSONIpswich photographer John Ferguson with the then prime minister Gordon Brown at the openning of the first Black Britannia exhibition in London Photo: JOHN FERGUSON

For Black History Month 2020, John has selected some of his favourite portraits to be shown in front of Ipswich Town Hall and will remain on display throughout October. The exhibition aims to highlight the accomplishments of these individuals, by promoting a positive image of Black Britons and a message to today’s black young people through these aesthetically arresting and high-quality portraits.

John explains: “The aim being, first, to inspire younger black people to broaden their horizons away by providing non-stereotypical role models, and second, to show Ipswich at large, the incredible achievements of individuals away from the all too frequent stereotyping of black people.

“I believe that all too often the black community is portrayed in a negative light. I want to challenge this preconception by raising people’s consciousness and awareness to the fantastic contributions made to Black Britons not only to UK culture but also to the economy at large.

Benjamin Zephaniah photographed in London for inclusion in the 'Black Britannia' photographic exhibition. Photo: JOHN FERGUSONBenjamin Zephaniah photographed in London for inclusion in the 'Black Britannia' photographic exhibition. Photo: JOHN FERGUSON

“I love that this venue is accessible and free to everyone, an important consideration given that part of the target audience I’d hope to attract would be disengaged youth.

“Ipswich is a multicultural town, and through diversity comes strength and cohesion - consciously and subconsciously. This exhibition is a chance for younger people to become inspired by the portraits and stories of these black men and women.”

Cllr Sarah Barber, portfolio holder for the town centre, said: “Ipswich Borough Council is delighted to host this ground-breaking exhibition of portrait photographs by John Ferguson, one of Britain’s most talented black photographers.

British Singer Ms Dyamite, photographed in London for inclusion in the Black Britannia exhibition.  Photo: JOHN FERGUSONBritish Singer Ms Dyamite, photographed in London for inclusion in the Black Britannia exhibition. Photo: JOHN FERGUSON

“It pays homage to the resilience and accomplishments of Black people who have achieved success in contemporary Britain and gives young people in Ipswich an opportunity to be inspired by people that they can relate and connect to.”

The exhibition, which is free, has been funded and supported by a local event and engagement partnership between Ipswich Borough Council, Ipswich Central and the New Anglia LEP. It will be on display on Cornhill, Ipswich, from Saturday October 3 to Sunday November 1.


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