How Great Thou Art – 50 years of African Caribbean Funerals in London: Charlie Phillips – Photofusion

© Charlie Phillips
© Charlie Phillips

We are so pleased and excited to announce the opening of a new exhibition by photographer Charlie Phillips which presents a sensitive photographic documentary of the social and emotional traditions that surround death in London’s African Caribbean community.

Taking place at Photofusion Gallery in November 2014, How Great Thou Art represents a lifetime’s work by Charlie. A video installation will accompany the exhibition.

The title for the exhibition is borrowed from the popular hymn sung at funerals. The song How Great Thou Art praises the life of an individual, and this project is a declaration of love and celebration for the traditions and cultures of the African diaspora in London.

Dr Michael McMillan, curator of West Indian Front Room and long-term collaborator of Charlie Phillips said: “Charlie Phillips captures in his photographs and ephemera of West Indian funerals cultural practices and spiritual beliefs that resonate across the African diaspora from the idea that death is part of life, to the Nine Night wake, dressing up for the funeral, to the belief that though the deceased have physically gone their spirit remains with us.” 

Paul Goodwin, curator, lecturer and urban theorist based in London has observed: How Great Thou Art is a new landmark in black British photography. The question of death and the cultural responses to death through funerals in the Caribbean community has featured sporadically in various photographic oeuvres before but no one has explored this subject in such depth and in such a participatory and embedded manner as Charlie Phillips in How Great Thou Art.

Eddie Otchere, exhibition curator said: “curating Charlie’s funeral works has been a hugely rewarding task, it is rare that one gets the opportunity to see the establishment of a photographer’s style. Looking at his earliest images from 1962, you can see where Charlie’s unique street style, and grass roots aesthetic was born. The confidence and sensitivity with which Charlie has captured his community, reminds us of the powerful role the photography, and photographers have as shapers of history; providing source documents for future historians and adding new communities to the British photographic canon”.

The exhibition is being hand-printed by Nick Jones and Danny Pope at Photofusion’s darkroom, using all traditional photo-chemical printing processes.

A series of talks and events will accompany the exhibition, including artist-led talks and exhibition tours. A limited edition book will be for sale at the exhibition, which has been successfully funded via Kickstarter.

Eddie Otchere and Lizzy King are curating this exhibition, with support from Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts Fund

To find out more about the show please click here.


Information courtesy: Photofusion