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The Brothers, Black House

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Place of origin:

    London (Holloway Road specifically, photographed)

  • Date:

    1970 (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.1489-2010

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level H, case DELTA, shelf 10

Having moved to London from Jamaica in the early 1960s, photographer Dennis Morris went on to document the mounting black consciousness and political activism in Britain during the 1970s. His personal photographs, since published together as the series Growing Up Black, conclude with a photograph inside the infamous British Black Power commune, the Black House.

Located on Holloway Road, London, the Black House was set up in 1969 by the British Trinidadian Black Power advocate Michael de Freitas (1933-1975), better known as Michael X. The house was supported by funding from high profile figures like John Lennon and Yoko Ono, but the project ended in 1970 after reports of violent abuse taking place there. Although the Black House remains controversial, Dennis Morris has emphasised the fact that it was ‘the first project of its kind to exist in England,’ functioning as a refuge for young black people where they could engage in ideas and develop black consciousness. Morris described the house as a black cultural centre, which ‘contained a library with books and artefacts on black history.’

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. Photographs by Colin Jones documenting a subsequent housing refuge for young black people were also acquired as part of Staying Power. Jones titled his series The Black House, playing on the associations that were made with the later refuge and Michael X’s commune, both of which were located on Holloway Road.

Physical description

Black and white photograph of three black men sitting in a dark interior. There is a table in the centre of the image with a chair placed to the left of it. One of the men sits on the floor in front of the chair looking directly out of the frame, he has his legs apart resting his arm on them. He has an afro and wears a suit with a turtle neck sweater. To the right of the image another of the men sits resting on the table looking down at the pile of books and papers on the table and at the man below. He wears a suit with a double breasted jacket and glasses. Behind the table the third man is seated looking directly out of the frame. Pieces of paper are seen hanging at the top right of the image.

Place of Origin

London (Holloway Road specifically, photographed)

Date

1970 (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: 68.5 cm Image size, Width: 45.5 cm Image size, Height: 83.2 cm paper size, Width: 65.9 cm paper size, Height: 92.0 cm mount size, Width: 68.0 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, 'The Brothers, Black House', from the series Growing Up Black, gelatin silver print, London, 1970, 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

Subjects depicted

Suits; Men; Books; Racial politics

Categories

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

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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