• Dexter McLean

Black is the New Black

27th October 2018

Dexter McLean Photography

Black is the New Black Exhibition by Simon Frederick @ National Portrait Gallery – 27th October ‘18

I went to see the ‘Black is the New Black Exhibition’, an exhibition by Simon Frederick. He photographed the most famous black people in the UK, who are working in different fields, like Naomi Campbell who is a model and Chuka Umunna who is a politician for The Labour Party. I was really looking forward to this exhibition, because I watched a documentary about it. When I saw the documentary, it gave me an idea that maybe in the future I can do something like this on disabled people, because I don’t feel they are represented. At the exhibition, I was a little bit disappointed with the way the photos were presented and the room it was put in.

For an exhibition that was publicised as being the 'largest group of portraits of Afro-Caribbean sitters into the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection', the room was very small leaving not much space to view each photo, as a result, some photos were very high up, meaning you couldn’t get the real impact of the quality of the photography. The location of the exhibition seemed to be out of the spotlight, only visible on the way to other exhibitions, especially for an exhibition of its level of significance. There was also no information on the walls about the exhibition or the people in the photographs, there were only handheld boards, which were shared amongst the viewers, taking away from the flow of the viewing experience.

This display reminded me of the response to a research paper, ‘The Arts Britain’s Ignore 1976’ that I came across when writing my BA dissertation. The response to that paper from arts organisations, was to give only 4% of their budgets to minority ethnics, and this exhibition reminded me of that.

Although we’ve come a long way when it comes to the representation of black people, this exhibition showed that we still have a long way to go, which is a shame.