Neil Kenlock: Opening a Window into the Black British Experience

Born:

Port Antonio, Jamaica – 1950

Claim to fame:

Photographer, media professional

Highlights: 

Photographer for the British Black Panther Party

Co-founder of Choice FM

Work exhibited at Tate Britain, National Portrait Gallery, Black Cultural Archives and the Victoria and Albert Museum

Taking an image, freezing a moment, reveals how rich reality truly is –  Anon

Neil Kenlock has captured moments of black life that would otherwise be erased by mainstream media. For the last several decades, with a camera, he has opened a window into the Black British experience. He has shown the public a world that they could or would not see.

Kenlock was born and lived in Jamaica with his grandmother until 1963, moving to London to join his parents in the same year. He soon immersed himself into south London’s Caribbean community. Early in his career in the UK, he was a staff photographer of West Indian World.


He became an active member of the British Black Panther Party based in Brixton. Putting his photography skills to use, he acted as the party’s photographer. He closely documented the struggles of the British Black Panthers, bringing to light their fight against injustices against Black and Asian people in Britain [and the further injustices experienced because of their fight].

Bringing black imagery to the forefront has always played a major part in his work and he is a member of the Association of Black Photographers. As his career grew, he photographed black people from across the diaspora; Diane Abbott, Bob Marley and Eddie Grant, a Black British reggae/pop vocalist, just to name a few. His portraits of notable people immortalise them so our history does not continue to be lost.

His passion for amplifying Black British voices wasn’t limited to photography. He contributed to black media as a whole. He co-founded Roots the first glossy magazine for Black Brits. Kenlock was interested in music too. He co-founded Choice FM –  the first legal station for black music. The pirate radio scene had been thriving for years and was instrumental to the growth of Black British music. However, with the founding of Choice FM, an easily accessible platform was created that allowed black music from here and abroad to flourish in the mainstream.

He himself has enjoyed mainstream success. His work is featured in the National Portrait Gallery and he has been exhibited at the Museum of London, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Britain, the Musee Du Quai Branly in Paris and the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, South London. Kenlock even featured in the BBC TV adaption of Black and British: A Forgotten History.

Documenting moments, big and small is important and even a revolutionary act for marginalised groups. His images of everyday life invites people to see how different and yet how similar Black British society is. It humanises and it reveals and it inspires.

It has paved the way for black media to thrive- even Brits +Pieces itself.