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Photograph - The Harder They Come
  • The Harder They Come
    Albert, Raphael, born 1935 - died 2009
  • Enlarge image

The Harder They Come

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Place of origin:

    Hammersmith (photographed)

  • Date:

    c.1970s (photographed)
    2012 (printed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Albert, Raphael, born 1935 - died 2009 (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gelatin silver fibre-based print

  • Credit Line:

    Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

  • Museum number:

    E.312-2013

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case SP, shelf 6

Grenadian born photographer Raphael Albert (1935-2009) was committed to celebrating the growing black population in Britain. Whilst living in Hammersmith, West London he began to organise and photograph a host of black beauty pageants from the 1960s to the 1980s, mostly targeted at women from the British Caribbean community.

Prizes for winning contestants often included music records. The woman on the corner of the makeshift stage displays the Jimmy Cliff record ‘The Harder They Come’ released in 1972, which accompanied the Jamaican crime film of the same name starring Cliff. Both the film and the music it featured helped to popularise reggae music in Britain, showing the mainstream success of Caribbean culture.

The V&A acquired seven of Albert’s photographs documenting beauty pageants and the British Caribbean community in London 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

A black and white photograph of spectators surrounding a low stage area. In the centre of the crowd there is a woman sitting on the edge of the stage wearing a satin wrap dress and bangles, she holds the Jimmy Cliff record 'The Harder They Come with the sleeve removed sitting behind her arm. The central woman and some of the crowd look upwards, out of the frame, but one man on her left wearing large aviator sunglasses looks directly out of the frame.

Place of Origin

Hammersmith (photographed)

Date

c.1970s (photographed)
2012 (printed)

Artist/maker

Albert, Raphael, born 1935 - died 2009 (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Gelatin silver fibre-based print

Marks and inscriptions

Autograph ABP stamped on verso

Dimensions

Width: 281 mm image, Height: 280 mm image, Width: 305 mm paper, Height: 405 mm paper

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 Raphael Albert, 'The Harder They Come', from the portfolio Black Beauty Pageants, gelatin silver print, Hammersmith, London, c. 1970s, printed 2012

Labels and date

Raphael Albert (1935 – 2009)
The Harder They Come
Untitled
Miss Black & Beautiful
Beauty Salon
Untitled
Untitled
From the series Black Beauty Pageants
1960 – 79

This series of photographs echoes the sentiment of the
‘Black is Beautiful’ movement, which started in America
in the 1960s. The movement encouraged black people to
embrace their natural beauty, especially their hair. Albert
became interested in black British beauty pageants while
working as a freelance photographer for the newspaper
West Indian World. His photographs also explore the
objectifying nature of pageants as beauty parades, where
female contestants are judged on their physical rather than
intellectual attributes.

Gelatin silver prints (printed 2012)
Museum nos. E.312 to 317-2013 []
Raphael Albert (1935 – 2009)
Untitled
Untitled
The Harder They Come
Beauty Salon
Untitled
Miss Black & Beautiful
From the series Black Beauty Pageants
1960 – 79

This series of photographs echoes the sentiment of the ‘Black is Beautiful’ movement, which started in America in the 1960s. The movement encouraged black people to embrace their natural beauty. Albert became interested in black British beauty pageants while working as a freelance photographer for the newspaper West Indian World. He founded the Miss Teenager and Miss West Indies in Great Britain contests in 1974. He viewed the contests as a way of restoring confidence within his community.

Gelatin silver prints (printed 2012)
Museum nos. E.312 to 317-2013
[16/02/2015-24/05/2015]

Materials

Photographic paper

Techniques

Gelatin silver process; Photography

Subjects depicted

Music; Stage

Categories

Photographs; African Diaspora; Pageants and Ceremonies; Music

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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