‘How Great Thou Art – 50 Years Of African Caribbean Funerals In London’ Exhibition [LDN]

At 70 years of age, Jamaican-born Notting Hill-raised photographer Charlie Phillips has carved a life to date as one of the key documentarians of black-culture around the world. Emigrating with his family to West London in the fifties, from a young age Phillips was photographing life in the area, during the time of West Indian migration to London. Self-taught on the Kodak Brownie camera gifted to him from his father via a US serviceman, his natural talent for capturing memories for the culture has proved timeless in passing down to future generations.

Leaving the UK for America temporarily, Phillips ripped up his draft notice to backpack around Europe. Working as a pap he was always seemingly able to capture an unseen side of a people’s story, often political protest and famously the student uprisings in Paris in the early seventies.

There’s no doubt that his work and exhibitions to date are all worthy of praise, but personally, I love this project of his that’s recently come to life. It’s an element of African Caribbean culture that as outsiders it’s almost impossible to get a look in, or to emulate. As the title suggest, How Great Thou Art – 50 Years Of African Caribbean Funerals is Phillips’ work recording the burial rituals of the African-Caribbean community in London, and importantly how they’ve changed.

Eddie Otchere is the photographer and curator charged with the mission of archiving thousands of such memories from Charlie Phillips’ archive of film. Together, Phillips’ and Otchere are giving back to their community by bringing this project to life through and exhibition and book.

How Great Thou Art… was given a bit of exposure and funded through Kickstarter earlier this year, accompanied with a great write-up and a short-video of Charlie explaining how he came to be |the deadman photographer” and the importance of this project to his community.

You can read more about the fundraising for the book here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/151111416/charlie-phillips-presents-how-great-thou-art

For those London based there’s an exhibition going live next month at the wonderful Photofusion space on Electric Lane in Brixton. More info below, make sure you head down.

Exhibition Dates
7 November – 5 December 2014

Launch Party
Thursday 6 November, 18.30 – 21.00

Photographer Charlie Phillips presents a sensitive photographic documentary of the social and emotional traditions that surround death in London’s African Caribbean community.

Taking place at Photofusion Gallery in November 2014, How Great Thou Art represents a lifetime’s work by Charlie, and the offers visitors a rare opportunity to engage with, learn from, and celebrate the rapidly changing mourning traditions and practices of London’s African Caribbean community. A video installation will accompany the exhibition.

The exhibition is being hand-printed by Nick Jones at Photofusion’s darkroom, using traditional photo-chemical printing processes and fibre-based archival paper.

A series of talks and events will accompany the exhibition, including artist-led talks and exhibition tours. A limited edition book will be for sale at the exhibition.

Eddie Otchere and Lizzy King are curating this exhibition, with support from Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts Fund.