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Colin Jones. "The Black House" (1973-76)

Colin Jones.

The Hyman Collections includes several vintage photographs from Colin Jones powerful series, The Black House, depicting communal life in a north London home.

The Black House is an extraordinary series of photographs taken in a 'halfway house for vulnerable young people' in the Holloway Road, London in the early 1970s by photographer Colin Jones. The Black House, a hostel for young blacks run by Brother Herman (Herman Edwards) and funded by the local authority, was the central feature of a local community project named Harambee.

Colin Jones had originally been commissioned by The Sunday Times to produce illustrations for an article on Harambee, but he developed an uneasy yet compelling bond with its ever-changing inhabitants and continued taking photographs for three years until it was closed. He recorded in his diary at the time, My camera in the house was very intrusive so I wasn't always able to use it as it could have provoked some situations to turn violent. The problem is that I am white and these people, with all their problems, have little to lose. Sometimes when I go through the front door I can feel the pressure of the place.Mike Phillips points out in his introduction to the book, The Black House, 'whether or not the theory worked, the house was always in hot water, with the neighbours reporting overcrowding, or a breach of fire regulations, or too much noise... Most of his subjects look at him, poised, on their guard, meeting his gaze with a query of their own. At the same time, he captures in their faces, their body language, in their physical relationship to each other, the vital essence of how they are situated in the time and place; and beyond the images themselves is a remarkable rhetoric about London identity, expressed in the subjects' style, the occasional glimpses of the setting, and the way they position themselves in the frame.Jones's pictures of The Black House capture the men and boys often together in groups, sometimes at play, occasionally looking quite menacing - always apparently waiting around in the daytime. The women are pictured with their men, in pairs or with the children, but there are delightful family groups, even a bride and groom.

As contextualisation for The Black House images, The Hyman Collection also includes a number of photographs by Colin Jones of National Front activities including rallies.

British Photography / The Hyman Collection

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