Charlie Phillips – the ‘Dead Man’s photographer’

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In 2014 we announced a book by London-based Jamaican photographer Charlie Phillips [see Forthcoming Publication: Photographer Charlie Phillips’ “How Great Thou Art”]. We are glad to see that the books is now available. Goetz Werner reviews the artist in “Charlie Phillips – the ‘Dead Man’s photographer’” (Lodown Magazine). Here are short excerpts; don’t miss the full interview in the link below:

Ronald ‘Charlie’ Phillips is a Jamaican-born restaurateur, photographer, and documenter of black London. His photographs have been published in magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, Life, Vogue, and Stern and he has exhibited his work in places like Tate Britain, the Museum of London, the Victoria & Albert Museum and MOCA Detroit.

For his latest project, ‘How Great Thou Art’, a book documenting 50 years of African Caribbean funerals in London, the 70-year old teamed up with long-time Lodown contributor Eddie Otchere, who helped him to raise the necessary funds on ‘Kickstarter’ to be able to publish the book. Working through an archive of more than 5000 pictures, spanning 50 years, this book really is a representation of a lifetime’s work by Charlie – or as Eddie puts it: “This really is a people’s project, a declaration of love and celebration for the traditions and cultures of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora in London.” Reason enough for us to catch up with the man himself to find out all about ‘How Great Thou Art’.

Why did you start taking pictures of Afro-Caribbean funerals (which is the topic of the ‘How Great Thou Art’ book you are doing together with Eddie Otchere)?
I have always had an interest in funerals because funerals in our community are not just about celebrating death, they are also about celebrating the life of the person being buried. A lot of our funerals go on for three days and they are big events. I started documenting funerals in 1962 and come to 2008 I found out how Caribbean funerals have been changing because one of the traditions was to sing spiritual songs and one of the main songs was ‘How Great Thou Art’, which is also the title of the book. Now we are going into the fifth generation of Afro-Caribbeans in England and over the years also with my photographs you realise how it has changed a lot because amongst the fifth generation the most popular songs they want to hear now are Frank Sinatra’s ‘I’ve Done It My Way’, Tina Turner’s ‘Simply The Best’ and Luther Vandross’ ‘Song For My Father’. This generation has lost a lot of the traditions that we used to have.

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

For more information and purchasing information, see http://lodownmagazine.com/features/how-great-thou-art and http://howgreatthouart.photography/

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