Published on 25/09/18

Opus to celebrate life and work of Birmingham photographer Vanley Burke

Vanley Burke, the celebrated Birmingham photographer who has documented black culture in the city for more than 50 years, will be discussing his life and work at a special event at Opus Restaurant.

The ‘In Conversation With’ evening at the leading fine-dining restaurant in Cornwall Street on 10th October is the 5th event of its kind. It will see award-winning Vanley, who is widely regarded as the “grandfather of black British photography”, talking about his thought-provoking photography.

John Dolan, who will compere the evening, will introduce topics including the African Caribbean diaspora within the UK, Windrush and migration, and how Vanley’s love of his art was ignited from receiving a Box Brownie in 1961 for his 10th birthday from his mother.

The artist, who was born in Jamaica and moved to the UK at the age of 14, has spent decades diligently photographing the black community, particularly in and around Handsworth, as a way of documenting their story.

“It was in response to the negative press we were receiving at the time,” he said. “History is a by-product of life and it’s normally written by the victors, so I decided I needed to take photos to observe the people, reflect their lives and document our story.

“I’ve always been interested in people’s expression of their identity, the idea of migration and the subsequent contribution they make to the community and society.”

Vanley has exhibited his works all over the UK and has also been shown in the USA, South Africa and China.

The Vanley Burke Archive, comprising thousands of images and other resources such as posters and flyers, is held at Library of Birmingham. A honorary doctor from the Universities of Leicester and Wolverhampton, Vanley’s last solo exhibition in Birmingham was in 2015. ‘At Home With Vanley Burke’ at the Ikon gallery comprised the contents of his Nechells flat, including record collection, tribal masks and that Box Brownie that began his love affair with photography.

Ann Tonks, managing director of Opus, said: “Our In Conversation With evenings have always been thought provoking and we are thrilled that Vanley will be our guest of honour. His work documenting the lives of the Afro-Caribbean community in Birmingham is an astonishing piece of contemporary history and I’m looking forward to introducing our guests to him and his works.”

To book tickets, click here.