Image Credit -NAE -New Art Exchange Nottingham
THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS – Exploring Multi cultural London
An Exhibition by Charlie Phillips
Wednesday 19 April - Saturday 13 May
Charlie Phillips was born in Kingston, Jamaica and came to Notting Hill in 1956 where he grew up against a background of hostility and prejudice in a part of London where racism, Rachmanism, rioting and sus laws, affected many people. When he was eleven he was given a Kodak Brownie by a black American serviceman and started snapping his friends and neighbours, particularly from the Caribbean Community. He developed the pictures in the bath at home, late at night when his parents had gone to bed. They were only too glad that he was not out on the streets at night and in any danger.
As a young man he travelled all over Europe. In 1968/9 he took photographs of the student riots in Paris and Rome. He had his first exhibition in Milan in 1972 where he showed photographs portraying the frustrations and difficulties of urban migrant workers. Much of his work, at that time and later, was published in magazines such as Stern, Harper’s Bazaar, Life and Vogue as well as Italian and Swiss journals. Later Charlie admits to being a bit of a paparazzo and managed to take pictures of people like Gina Lollobrigida, Omar Sharif and later Muhammed Ali.
On his return to London his camera gathered dust whilst he earned a living in the restaurant business, running the wonderful Smokey Joe’s Diner in Wandsworth. His instincts for photography were re-fired after his collection of photographs of Notting Hill were rediscovered lying battered and forgotten beneath his bed and recognised as a vivid and personal record of life and times that have long gone.
His collection of images of Notting Hill in the 1960s and ‘70s have now become prized for the way they recorded a unique moment in British history, capturing a time and a place that was in transition as he framed his shots.
Charlie’s images are full of the atmosphere of that time. Here are photographs of slum housing, of children on the streets, of traders, of funerals, of churchgoers, of shebeens and of the ordinary lives of people, black and white. In spite of hardship and poverty their faces tell us of spirit and humanity.
"Charlie Phillips is the greatest London photographer you've never heard of – and some of his best works are only just being rediscovered" (Time Out -2015)