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Untitled [Black people's information centre] from the series On a Good Day

Photograph
1970s (photographed), 2010 (printed)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

By the 1970s, American photographer Al Vandenberg (1932-2012) had abandoned his commercial career to take street photographs. Having studied photography in New York alongside Alexey Brodovitch, Richard Avedon and Bruce Davidson, Vandenberg became a successful commercial photographer and art director working in both New York and London during the 1960s. After a period of travelling, he settled in London in 1974 with the aim of using his photographic skills to document city life without a commercial agenda.

Vandenberg’s series On a Good Day is largely focused on the people that make up a city rather than the places within it. His photograph of the Black People’s Information Centre at 301-303 Portobello Road, London is an exception. The organisation was run by Rhodan Gordon on the site of his Caribbean restaurant Backayard in the 1970s.

Gordon had been one of the Mangrove Nine, a group of protestors accused of inciting a riot when they demonstrated against the continual police raids of The Mangrove Restaurant. The Notting Hill restaurant had become a meeting place for the area’s black community. The group were acquitted in 1971, with the first judicial acknowledgment that there was ‘evidence of racial hatred’ in the Metropolitan police. Gordon set up the Black People’s Information Centre with the aim of improving the rights of the black community and the resources available to them.

The V&A acquired fifteen photographs from Al Vandenberg’s On a Good Day series as part of the Staying Power project. A photograph by Charlie Phillips of the black activist Hakim Jamal taken in front of 301-303 Portobello Road when it was still the Backayard restaurant was also acquired as part of Staying Power. Photographs by Phillips and Syd Shelton documenting the activism of another of the Mangrove Nine, Darcus Howe, were acquired through the project as well. 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.


Object details
Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Gelatin silver print
Brief description
Photograph by Al Vandenberg, 'Untitled' [Black people's information centre] from the series On a Good Day, gelatin silver print, London, 1970s, printed 2010
Physical description
Black and white photograph of a shopfront with the words 'Black people's Information Centre' painted above it. On the windows of the premises lots of text is written under the headings 'General Housing', 'Information Education' and 'Advice-Action Legal' at the top of each window.
Dimensions
  • Image height: 12cm
  • Image width: 17.8cm
Style
Credit line
Given in part by Al Vandenberg and Eric Franck. Supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Object history
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.
Subject depicted
Places depicted
Summary
By the 1970s, American photographer Al Vandenberg (1932-2012) had abandoned his commercial career to take street photographs. Having studied photography in New York alongside Alexey Brodovitch, Richard Avedon and Bruce Davidson, Vandenberg became a successful commercial photographer and art director working in both New York and London during the 1960s. After a period of travelling, he settled in London in 1974 with the aim of using his photographic skills to document city life without a commercial agenda.



Vandenberg’s series On a Good Day is largely focused on the people that make up a city rather than the places within it. His photograph of the Black People’s Information Centre at 301-303 Portobello Road, London is an exception. The organisation was run by Rhodan Gordon on the site of his Caribbean restaurant Backayard in the 1970s.



Gordon had been one of the Mangrove Nine, a group of protestors accused of inciting a riot when they demonstrated against the continual police raids of The Mangrove Restaurant. The Notting Hill restaurant had become a meeting place for the area’s black community. The group were acquitted in 1971, with the first judicial acknowledgment that there was ‘evidence of racial hatred’ in the Metropolitan police. Gordon set up the Black People’s Information Centre with the aim of improving the rights of the black community and the resources available to them.



The V&A acquired fifteen photographs from Al Vandenberg’s On a Good Day series as part of the Staying Power project. A photograph by Charlie Phillips of the black activist Hakim Jamal taken in front of 301-303 Portobello Road when it was still the Backayard restaurant was also acquired as part of Staying Power. Photographs by Phillips and Syd Shelton documenting the activism of another of the Mangrove Nine, Darcus Howe, were acquired through the project as well. 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.

Associated objects
Collection
Accession number
E.422-2010

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Record createdFebruary 1, 2011
Record URL
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