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Critical Decade: Black British Photography in the 80s

Book relating to a publication, 1992
Published by: Ten.8
Year published: 1992
Number of pages: 160

image of Critical Decade: Black British Photography in the 80s

Ten 8, vol. 2, no. 3, Birmingham, 1992.

Hugely important edition of Ten.8, Critical Decade, subtitled Black British Photography in the 80s. This edition is an invaluable guide to the multiplicity of practices and concerns that Black British photographers pursued and developed during the 1980s. Critical Decade featured a broad range of contributors and was profusely illustrated.

From the book’s back cover: “Critical Decade is an account of black British photography in the 1980s. It maps out the terrain of black cultural politics during a period of rapid and turbulent change which  encompassed several major paradigm shifts in both theory and practice, and was marked by  a powerful synergy between race, politics and representation.

Ten.8 has been a key disseminator of the emerging cultural politics of race over the past 11 years. Critical Decade is a continuation and a summation of that legacy. We have republished edited versions of several influential articles, and set these alongside contemporary re-assessments of the era and its impact, so that the reader can gain a clear understanding of the complex debates which have taken place. This unique juxtaposition of the work of nearly 50 photographers and writers offers an insight into a range of key issues:

. the meaning of blackness;
. gender and sexuality in a discourse of racial difference;
. the role of racial representation in popular culture
. documentary and its relation to realism and authority;
. the politics of the constructed image.

Set against a background of debates around post-colonial theory and it’s (sic) critical questions of hybridity, marginalisation, essence and identity, Critical Decade seeks to provide the ground for new critical responses in the 1990s.”

There then follows a quote by Stuart Hall, “Critical Decade tells us about the capacity of black people to remake themselves historically - to become modern people - and to enter that most modern of all domains, the domain of representations: not as the bearers of somebody else’s discourse, but in their own right as historical subjects. This is why the question of identification, reiterated so often during the 80s, is so significant - it points to the capacity of people who have been objectified throughout history and suppressed as subjects, to enter their own subjectivity and to put themselves in the frame.”

Contents as follows:

Critical Decade: an introduction, David A. Bailey and Stuart Hall

Powers of Perception, Photographic Images by Franklyn Rodgers

The Vertigo of Displacement: shifts within black documentary practices, David A. Bailey and Stuart Hall (with images by David Lewis, Vanley Burke, and Franklyn Rodgers)

Identity and the black photographic image, Stuart Hall (with images by Armet Francis, Joy Gregory and Vincent Stokes)

Back to my Routes: a postscript to the 80s, Kobena Mercer

True Confessions: A Discourse on Black Male Sexuality, Isaac Julian and Kobena Mercer

Hateful Contraries/Transitory Moments, Pratibha Parmar

Aurat Shakti, Mumtaz Karimjee and Amina Patel

Traces of Ecstacy, Rotimi Fani-Kayode

From ‘Intimate Distance’ via ‘Photovideo’ to ‘The Colours of Asia’, photographic work by Sutapwa Biswas, Zarina Bhimji, Sonia Boyce, Keith Piper, Chila Burman, and Samena Rana

Desire and Black Men, Sunil Gupta,

Redrawing the Boundaries, Gilane Tawadros on David Lewis and Maxine Walker

Colour: Skin I’m In, Saldaan (formerly Derrick McClintock)

Recreations, Kellie Jones, (Works by Roshini Kempadoo, Ingrid Pollard, Mitra Tabrizian, Zarina Bhimji, Pat Ward Williams, Carrie Mae Weems, Clarissa Sligh, and Lorna Simpson

Reconstruction Work, Stuart Hall (with images by Vincent Stokes

Photography against the grain: New Work by Claudette Holmes, Peter Max Kandhola, Valerie Brown, Susan Banton, and Jeni McKenzie

Blackness as a cultural ikon, Eddie Chambers

Wearing your art on your sleeve, Paul Gilroy

Blackened Images, Sonali Fernando, Mis[sed] Representations, recent work by David Lewis and Mumtaz Karimjee

Distilling the Essence, Rita Keegan

Listings, Maxine Miller


Inadvertently perhaps, Critical Decade attests to the extent to which Maud Sulter came to rapid prominence from the early 1990s onwards. This volume references nothing of Sulter’s early practice, which developed from the mid to late 1980s.

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