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Steel Pulse, Ku Klux Klan

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Place of origin:

    London (photographed)

  • Date:

    1977 (photographed)
    2010 (printed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Morris, Dennis, born 1960 (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gelatin silver print

  • Credit Line:

    Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

  • Museum number:

    E.1492-2010

  • Gallery location:

    On short term loan out for exhibition

Dennis Morris moved to Britain from Jamaica in the early 1960s and began taking photographs at the age of eight. He had early success taking photographs of Bob Marley and the Wailers on their 1973 tour while still in his teens. Music continued to be a feature of Morris' work, as he went on to photograph British punk group The Sex Pistols and became Art Director of Island Records in the late 1970s.

While at Island Records, Morris photographed the roots reggae band Steel Pulse to publicise their debut single at the label titled 'Klu Klux Klan.' The song’s title, as well as the distinctive white hoods worn by the band in this photograph and during performances, played on the extreme white supremacist sect the Klu Klux Klan or KKK. Morris has since explained that through the photographs and their single, 'Steel Pulse wanted to show how the Klan were in our midst, in the community, disguised in different ways but present nevertheless.' However, the visual symbol was thought to be too controversial by Island Records and the photographs were never used.

The V&A acquired ten photographs by Dennis Morris as part of the Staying Power project. Staying Power is a five year partnership between the V&A and Black Cultural Archives. The project aims to explore black British experience from the 1950s to the 1990s through photographs acquired by the V&A and oral histories conducted by Black Cultural Archives.

Physical description

Black and white photograph of a group of seven people taken against a black background. Five black men wearing sunglasses surround two figures wearing white pointed hoods that cover their faces with holes for the eyes and mouth.

Place of Origin

London (photographed)

Date

1977 (photographed)
2010 (printed)

Artist/maker

Morris, Dennis, born 1960 (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Gelatin silver print

Marks and inscriptions

signed and titled on the reverse

Dimensions

Height: 45.5 cm Image size, Width: 68.5 cm Image size, Height: 66.0 cm paper size, Width: 83.8 cm paper size, Height: 68.0 cm mount size, Width: 92.0 cm mount size

Object history note

The V&A acquired this photograph as part of the Staying Power project. Staying Power is a five year partnership between the V&A and Black Cultural Archives. The project aims to explore black British experience from the 1950s to the 1990s through photographs acquired by the V&A and oral histories conducted by Black Cultural Archives.

Descriptive line

Photograph by Dennis Morris, 'Steel Pulse, Ku Klux Klan', from the series Growing Up Black, gelatin silver print, London, 1977, printed 2010

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Morris, D. Growing Up Black (London: Autograph ABP, 2012), illustrated

Materials

Photographic paper

Techniques

Gelatin silver process; Photography

Subjects depicted

Sunglasses; Men; Racial politics; Hood

Categories

Photographs; Black History; Music; African Diaspora; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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