Neil Kenlock on photographing black community leaders

Photographer Neil Kenlock has curated a photographic exhibition about black community leaders from the 1960s and 70s. We talk to him about telling untold stories, documenting racism and being the official photographer for the British Black Panthers

Neil Kenlock moved to Brixton Hill from Jamaica in 1963. He was appointed official photographer of the British Black Panther movement in the 1960s and went on to photograph black community leaders, politicians and musicians for newspapers and magazines. In 1979 he launched Root, the first glossy magazine for Britain’s black community, and in 1990, he co-founded Choice FM, the first legal UK radio station devoted to black music.

Kenlock’s photographs from the 1960s and 70s document racism, activism and everyday life for West Indians who had recently arrived in Britain. He photographed marches and incidents of racism (one of his most pictures shows a woman standing by a door which has been defaced with the words ‘Keep Britain White’) and took portraits of campaigners and activists fighting against discrimination. Alongside this, he photographed musicians and cultural figures – including Reggae legend Bob Marley – and people in his local community. His colour images of West Indians at home from the late 1960s and 70s reflect the fashion and interiors trends of the era, with his subjects posing alongside patterned carpets, mustard curtains and telephone tables (staple items in many a 1970s household).