British newspapers are
often seriously challenged when representing the everyday truths about black
people’s lives in text and images, but as little time ago as 1985 it was rare
to see a black person’s face in print at all. It is clear that most news stories
about a whole range of people and situations are reported in almost any way
that will sell newspapers, the result is that no one story is told without
recourse to at least mild exaggeration, distorted images and insider humor,
2007 was the year that the
country “commemorated” the 200th anniversary of the Act of
Parliament abolishing the slave trade in Britain. We thought that the images of black people in
the Guardian newspaper, which
is read by people who work predominately in the health service, social
services, education and the media, would be particularly important.
It was with this was mind that the project began. Every edition of the paper that year was examined for images and texts in which a black person played a central role. We found that the paper, no doubt in the interests of good design and witty narrative used black people in a very subtle way which could be said to undermine their identity. The newspaper did this on several hundred occasions. To date, (Summer 2009) in order to highlight the findings, and to reclaim the image of each black person depicted, Lubaina Himid, using predominately African patterns, has so far, over painted around fifty of these pages. During 2008 and 2009 the project has continued to develop but now the aim is to target particular politicians and sports people in order to monitor changes and developments in the way they are represented over a period of time, rather than employ the broad gathering methods used in 2007.
Negative Positives / Guardian
How black people are
represented in the Guardian Newspaper 2007-09 paintings on paper.
The Guardian Paper works
are an ongoing series of paper works which were first shown as part
of Swallow Hard : Lancaster Dinner Service at the Judges Lodgings in
Lancaster in 2007.
Hard: Lancaster Dinner Service publication
The paper works in this
exhibition are a series of pages from the Guardian taken from editions
purchased in the past year. When the text is unusually pessimistic or the
image alludes to the African as slave, it qualifies. There are a lot of
footballers and some rugby players but because it’s rare to see the Black advertising
executives, physicists or engineers in the paper they don’t really feature in
the series. Often Black people are used to fill a gap or add color. Sometimes
the picture editor seems to have a fixation on a particular person and use them
week after week to illustrate a point or lift a narrative. The invented
and borrowed patterns on each page are painted to highlight this strange and
inappropriate use of people as signifiers and to finally vent my spleen.
Every day in Britain even the “liberal” press is simultaneously
visualizing and making invisible black people lives.