Through The Lens Of Vanley Burke: The History of UK’s Caribbean Community

IT HAS taken more than four decades of work but photographer Vanley Burke has produced what is considered to be the greatest document depicting the lives of Caribbean people in post-war Britain today, Poppy Brady writes in The Voice. [Follow link below for original report and additional photographs]

In his first retrospective exhibition of 100 new and existing photographs called By The Rivers of Birminam, Burke has explored the history of the Caribbean community in Birmingham from the mid-1960s to date.

His work, shot entirely in black and white, has a unique quality that no other photographer has been able to match – an intimacy with his subjects. Over the years Burke has been able to capture people across the generations from childhood to old age; the musicians, the soldiers, the good times and the bad all sensitively recorded.

The exhibition will run at MAC Birmingham, the Midlands Arts Centre in Cannon Hill Park, Edgbaston, until November 18.

Burke’s images have captured the visits of significant figures such as Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech delivered to the Conservative Party in Birmingham, and the more recent riots of last summer and those of the 1980s.

The exhibition has been curated by Lynda Morris, a senior lecturer at Norwich University College of the Arts, which is supporting the exhibition, along with Arts Council England and the Roughley Trust.

She said: “By The Rivers of Birminam is a recognition of the outstanding achievements made by Vanley Burke during his longstanding practice. His connection with the subject has allowed him to depict the immigration of the Caribbean community to Great Britain in a way which has been unparalleled by any other photographer in this country. Nowhere can tell the story better than Birmingham and Vanley is the photographer who was there and who knew he was living through a great moment in history.”

Burke said: “The photographs are very much part of a documentation process which we as a black people need to go through.”

He added: “It is not an attempt to show the black community to the wider community. This is where we are – it is more importantly a record.”

For the original report go to

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