Fabulous Photos of British Black Beauty Pageants in the 1960s and ’70s

Between the late 1960s and early 1990s, Caribbean-born photographer Raphael Albert captured black beauty pageants as a freelancer for black British newspapers like West Indian World. In 1974, he established the Miss Teenager and Miss West Indies contests, organizing and promoting other celebrations of black beauty across Great Britain. Albert’s photographs of women, which establish him as a pioneering cultural promoter, are the subject of a new exhibition on display through September 24 at Autograph ABP, Rivington Place in London.

The gallery was “established in 1988 with the mission of promoting black photographers, providing black people with a focus for developing photographic practices within their own communities, and advocating the inclusion of historically marginalised photographic practices within mainstream cultural institutions.” This will be the first major solo exhibition of Albert’s work and includes over 60 modern and vintage prints, as well as archival ephemera.

“Not only did the pageants offer the opportunity to create a distinct space for Afro-Caribbean self-fashioning — a wager against invisibility in response to contemporaneous mainstream fashion and life-style platforms where black women were largely absent or at best marginal — they also represented a site to challenge conventional notions of beauty implicated in the social, cultural, and political contexts of the time,” writes the gallery. “Albert’s photographs serve as testament to this profound moment of self-articulation and collective celebration in London’s pan Afro-Caribbean communities.”

See a preview of Raphael Albert: Miss Black and Beautiful in our gallery.