Last week we published a handful of portraits by John Goto, taken at Lewisham Youth Centre back in 1977, where he taught photography.
Entitled Lovers’ Rock after a musical sub-genre that grew out of the South London reggae scene in the mid-1970s, the pictures show a friendly community at odds with the prevailing media images at the time.
On his website, Goto explains that the two main problems he faced when returning to the pictures after thirty-five years were how to physically realise them, and “how to contextualise them within their historical and cultural moment.”
1977 was a year of political and cultural upheaval in the capital, with the Battle of Lewisham in August following serious clashes with police at the 1976 Notting Hill Carnival.
The far-right National Front attempted to stage a march from New Cross to Lewisham in protest against a multicultural Britain – and, it should be added, met with strong resistance from community groups.
“Young black people were being actively criminalised, yet even the most politically sympathetic explanations of their situation left no space for accounts of their cultural life,” says writer and contributor to Lovers’ Rock, Paul Gilroy.
“Racism always denies individuality to those it subordinates. A black person is primarily a type, the representative of a group. Here in these images, the photographer’s loving eye has allowed, even encouraged, his sitters to cultivate the dimensions of individual subjectivity that racism simply cannot accommodate.”
If you enjoy the photos, do consider buying the book from which they’re taken, which features forty-five images, along with accompanying texts and essays by Paul Gilroy, John Goto, Mark Sealy, and Baroness Lola Young.