Forthcoming Publication: Photographer Charlie Phillips’ “How Great Thou Art”


I found this Kickstarter fundraising project to be truly captivating. Photographer Charlie Phillips (originally from Jamaica) intends to publish How Great Thou Art, a book documenting 50 years of African Caribbean funerals in London, England. This limited edition book will celebrate the changes and traditions dealing with life and death in the African Caribbean diaspora, which the photographer has been documenting since 1962. See the descriptions (written by Eddie Otchere) here, and, please, do not miss the video explaining the project and the artist’s trajectory in the link provided below.

Description: How Great Thou Art is a sensitive photographic documentary of the social and emotional traditions that surround death in London’s African Caribbean community. The title for this book and 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.

In his time attending and photographing funerals in his community Charlie has witnessed huge changes and emerging traditions in burial and mourning practices. From the disappearance of bodies lying on dining room tables, to the establishment of black funeral directors and the booming business of burying and celebrating the dead.

How Great Thou Art represents a lifetimes’ work by Charlie, and the book presents you with a rare opportunity to engage with, learn from, and celebrate these rapidly changing mourning traditions and practices London’s African Caribbean community.

Charlie Phillips is a 70-year-old London-based photographer whose photographs have been exhibited at Tate Britain, Museum of London, MOCA in Detroit, and whose work is part of The Wedge and V&A collections. Having moved to London from Jamaica in 1953, Charlie was given his first camera by a Black American GI who was stationed near Notting Hill during the Cold War in the 1960s. With his recently acquired Kodak Retina, Charlie set about documenting the lives of fellow members of the African diaspora.

Unable to afford access to professional photo processing labs, Charlie waited until all of the tenants that used the communal bathroom had gone to bed before hand-processing and printing his own photographs in the bathtub. To this day, Charlie remains committed to analogue photography, and has never owned a digital camera.

As the years passed Charlie travelled widely across Europe, briefly working as a paparazzo in Italy during the 1970s and documenting student uprisings in Paris.

Eddie Otchere is a curator of photography and phonography who has been working in the fields of photography and music for over 20 years. He is motivated by social inclusion and art’s ability to create a democratic cultural environment.

[Many thanks to Rod Fusco for bringing this item to our attention.]

For original report and to contribute, see

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