Then There Was Us

Armet Francis: Beyond The Black Triangle

2023-08-04 – Feature

Armet Francis, London, Africa

For over forty years, Armet Francis has dedicated himself to capturing the essence of the African diaspora through photography. As a Jamaican-British artist with a profound connection to black consciousness, his images immortalise life-affirming moments that celebrate the resilience and endurance of African diasporic cultures.

Armet Francis
Armet Francis, Self-portrait in Mirror, 1964. Courtesy the artist and Autograph, London. Copyright © Armet Francis

Having immigrated to Britain from Jamaica as a young child during the 1950s, Francis experienced the turmoil of uprooting and political alienation, leaving a lasting impact on his life. Feeling culturally displaced, he found solace in photography, using it as a medium to bridge the gap and connect with the rich and diverse Pan-African world.

In 1969, Francis conceived the concept of 'The Black Triangle' as a guiding principle for his photographic work. In his own words, the idea was born out of a "personal need to discover the dimensions of the experiences of Black people." The triangle symbolised Africa, the Americas, and Europe, reminiscent of the slave trade route. Through his camera, he sought to capture and convey the profound impact of this historical journey on individuals and communities.

Armet Francis
Armet Francis, from the series Lambeth and Brixton Tube, 1994. Commissioned by Autograph. Courtesy the artist and Autograph, London. Copyright © Armet Francis

Over the span of four decades, Francis's photographic journey masterfully portrays the fragmented experiences of diasporic communities. His fashion shoots in Brixton Market during the 1970s radiate playful moments of black joy and celebration. In 2008, his portraits of those who arrived on the Empire Windrush became critical interventions, giving identity and recognition to those who embarked on that transformative voyage that forever changed the course of British history. 

Armet Francis
Armet Francis, Carnival Sound System, London, 1968. Courtesy the artist and Autograph, London. Supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund. Copyright © Armet Francis

He also documented young black Londoners protesting for justice after the tragic New Cross Fire incident in 1981, as well as influential political activists like Angela Davis. Throughout his career, Francis has remained dedicated to shining a light on proud, radical individuality within the broader context of British photography.

Armet Francis
Armet Francis, Fashion Shoot, Brixton Market, London, 1973. Courtesy the artist and Autograph, London. Supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund. Copyright © Armet Francis

In 2023, Autograph celebrates 35 years of pioneering work within the visual arts, championing photography that addresses vital themes such as race, identity, representation, human rights, and social justice. One of the founding signatories of Autograph, Armet Francis is being honoured with the exhibition "Beyond the Black Triangle." This yearlong celebration underscores Autograph's continued commitment to preserving the legacy of practitioners like Francis, who have enriched British history through their invaluable narratives.

Armet Francis: Beyond the Black Triangle will be showcased at Autograph's gallery in Shoreditch, London, from 22 September 2023 to 20 January 2024, with free entry to all.

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