Syd Shelton: Rock Against Racism

Autograph ABP announces the publication of a major new book of Syd Shelton’s photographs and graphic design produced for and about the British Rock Against Racism Movement of 1976-1981. The accompanying exhibition runs at Rivington Place, London EC2 from 2 October until 5 December 2015. The book is co-edited by Mark Sealy MBE, Director of Autograph ABP, and Carol Tulloch, CCW Professor of Dress, Diaspora and Transnationalism and member of TrAIN research Centre.

Rock Against Racism (RAR) confronted racist ideology in the streets, parks and town halls of Britain. RAR was formed by a collective of musicians and political activists to fight fascism and racism through music. Shelton’s photographs capture one of the most intriguing and contradictory political periods in British post-war history, and for him this work was a socialist act, what he calls a ‘graphic argument’ on behalf of marginalised lives. Shelton photographed performers such as The Clash, Elvis Costello, Misty in Roots, Tom Robinson, the Au Pairs and The Specials. He also captured the audiences at RAR gigs and carnivals across England, as well as what he calls ‘the contextual images’ of the lives and landscapes that often fuelled acts of racist violence.

The full colour publication features an essay by Paul Gilroy, Professor of American and English Literature at King’s College London, and an interview with Syd Shelton by Adam Phillips, formerly Principal Child Psychotherapist at Charing Cross Hospital in London, and now a writer and psychoanalyst, and Visiting Professor in the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York.

Syd Shelton is a British photographer and graphic designer. He has worked in Europe, Australia and the United States. He co-edited and was art director of a series of photographic books: 24 Hours in Los Angeles (1984), the award winning Day in the Life of London (1984) and Ireland: A Week in the Life of a Nation (1986). His work was recently included in the exhibition Words, Sound and Power: Reggae Changed My Life at The British Music Experience: Britain’s Museum of Popular Music, O2 Arena, London (2012) and The Photographer’s Gallery exhibition The World in London.

Tulloch has been working with the Rock Against Racism archival material since her 2008 exhibition A Riot of Our Own. The current exhibition and book have received press from The Observer and the British Journal of Photography.

Established in 1988, Autograph ABP is a charity that works internationally in photography and film, cultural identity, race, representation and human rights. Rock Against Racism is supported using public funding by Arts Council England. The publication of this work is supported by a grant from The Barry Amiel & Norman Melburn Trust.

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