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24 September 2014

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Through the eyes of Vanley Burke
Small boy
Photograph by Vanley Burke©
From children playing in Handsworth Park to family celebrations and public demonstrations, for over 30 years Vanley Burke has captured the everyday life of Britain's black community.

My life of Jazz - by Andy Hamilton

Meet local black writer Norman Samuda-Smith

Black History Month Index

Vanley Burke's school project in the Black Country

BBC Multicultral History


Vanley Burke at Birmingham City Archives

Black History at Birmingham libraries

Digital Handsworth

Pogus Caesar - OOM Gallery

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Image copyright notice

All images have been supplied courtesy of the Birmingham Central Library.

© Copyright for all images is retained by Vanley Burke and are protected by copyright laws.

For more information please contact Birmingham City archives

Tel: (0121) 303 4217
Birmingham Central Library

Birmingham Central Library

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Vanley Burke
Copyright Pogus Caesar /OOM Gallery ©

Born in Jamaica in 1951, Vanley Burke moved to Birmingham in 1965, armed with his camera given to him by his grandmother for his 10th birthday. He started photographing daily life in the community around him in 1967 and has continued to the present day.

For over 30 years Vanley Burke has single-mindedly followed his self appointed task to document the life of the black community in Britain. From worship and baptism in a local church to family weddings and birthdays or simply men enjoying a session of dominos.

Historical events in pictures...

Riot police
Riot Police - Photograph by Vanley Burke©

He was there at African Liberation Day in 1977, Handsworth park, where the biggest all-black crowd gathered in Britian. He was also there in 1981 and 1985 when Birmingham's streets erupted in violent riots.

Vanley’s amazing work has been exhibited extensively across the UK and abroad. With solo exhibitions in New York, Mall and closer to home at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, The Black Arts Gallery in London Cornerhouse in Manchester, amongst others.

The photographs have also been displayed in locations more easily accessed by black audiences including pubs, clubs, community centres, churches and schools.

At home and abroad...

Although much of his work is centred around the Handsworth area, Vanley has also worked in many other towns and cities and overseas, most importantly in South Africa during the struggles against apartheid.
Mother and Baby
Mother & Baby - Photograph by Vanley Burke©

Shortly after the release of Nelson Mandela he took self-financed trip to South Africa to record people and events in post-Apartheid.

"The photographs are very much a part of a documentation process which we as black people need to go through, and it is not an attempt to show the black community to the wider community, this is where we are, it is more importantly a record!" - Vanley Burke

The Vanley Burke collection

View a small selection of photographs from
the Vanley Burke archive

Photograph by Vanley Burke
View a Vanley Burke
picture gallery

Vanley Burke at Birmingham City Archives...

Visit the Birmingham Central Library to view the full collection of photographs taken by Vanley Burke, for exhibitions and projects in both the UK and abroad.

Digital Handsworth ...

More of Vanley's work is also featured on the Digital Handsworth website alongside work by local other photographers.

Digital Handsworth provides a multimedia resource guide to the history of the community, using personal documents, photographs, recollections and oral history, personal documents and film in the possession of archives, libraries and museums.

Visit the Dgital Handsworth website:




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