Last Updated July 13, 2018

Vanley Burke

British/Jamaican (Born 1951 ) FREE LISTING
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B3 3DH

Influence: Contemporary influential

Vanley Burke was born in Jamaica and arrived in Birmingham in 1965 aged 15. Here he began photographing the lives and experiences of the African Caribbean community.

He is often described as the ‘Godfather of Black British Photography’, whereby his iconic images have captured the evolving cultural landscape, social change, and stimulated debate in the United Kingdom over the past four decades. He draws strength from remaining a humble man of the community, whose personable character allows him to capture the intimate and private nature of people’s everyday lives.

His body of work represents possibly the largest photographic record of the Caribbean Diaspora in Britain, and as an avid collector, Vanley continues to connect histories through his substantial archive housed at the Library of Birmingham. From local community organisations to the Victoria & Albert Museum and Whitechapel, Vanley has exhibited widely in the United Kingdom, and as far afield as New York, South Africa and China.

Vanley’s artistic enquiry is not simply limited to black and white documentary photography, as his eccentric rebellious nature lends itself to sculpture and painting, and crafting art that gives life a shape. His simple motivation has been the preservation of culture and history through creation, documentation, and discovery which often leaks into the private.

The 'Vanley Burke Archive' maintained by Birmingham City Council is a constantly growing photographic and documentary community resource.

Burke's first notable exhibition, Handsworth from the Inside, was held at the Ikon Gallery Birmingham, and then the Commonwealth Institute in London in 1983. Since then his work has been exhibited extensively at venues including The Light House, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, The Black Arts Gallery in London, Cornerhouse in Manchester and Walsall Museum and Art Gallery, and he has held solo exhibitions abroad in New York City and Mali.

Vanley Burke is still documenting the black community in the UK and has recently worked on a number of projects including an exhibition and publication project documenting the Asian community in Birmingham.


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