Handsworth Self Portraits

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  • Product Code: pt16006


In 1979, three friends - Derek Bishton, John Reardon and Brian Homer - set up a self-portrait studio in Handsworth, Birmingham. Located outside their work place, this studio was set up as an experiment. The photographers surrendered control of the decisive moment to their subjects, enabling them to choose to present themselves in subtly different ways.

The studio comprised an SLR camera with a long cable release mounted on a tripod and a white back drop. Accompanying it were signs in English, Urdu and Punjabi, inviting passers-by to stop and take a photograph. Over five sessions, more than 500 individuals took part in the project, each receiving a print of their portrait. The intention of the project was to overcome some of the problems associated with inner city documentary photography, which often presented people within a context of deprivation. The white background allowed the project to convey the richness of the Handsworth community without focusing on the deprivation in the local area.  

Within the deliberate limitations of the standard format, the series presents an extraordinary variety. People chose to be photographed alone, with friends or lovers or as part of a larger group. The pictures show an immense diversity in age and race. The images also include a large range of stylistic and formal variation. Some people present themselves formally, others are more playful and a few defiantly take up space in the frame.

These photographs were hugely influential for the trio, who went on to form Ten.8 Magazine, a publication focused on race and representation. Like the Handsworth project, the magazine offered a platform for the marginalised to put themselves in the frame, both literally and figuratively.

A selection of images from The Handsworth Self Portrait Project is available for purchase. They are available as archival silver gelatin fibre prints and come in an edition of 10. They are signed, dated and numbered, and accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. The following print size is available: 8 x 10 inch. Prices are available upon request. Please note that all prices are exclusive of VAT, framing and packaging and posting.