Young Black boy wearing a hat smiles and points at the camera in a black and white photograph

About Handsworth Self-portraits: 40 Years On

In 1979 Derek Bishton, Brian Homer and John Reardon created a pop-up photography studio on the street outside the community design and photography office they had established in a terraced house in Grove Lane, Handsworth, Birmingham.

Instead of taking the photos themselves, they invited passers-by to take their own photograph, handing them the shutter release so they could control the decisive moment of how to present themselves when they were ready for the picture to be taken. ‘Selfies’ are commonplace now, but in 1979 the idea of photographing oneself was virtually unheard of.

More than 400 people stopped by to take part and the project generated a unique archive of images providing a snapshot of who was living and working in Handsworth at that time.

Now, 40 years on, this exhibition presents 44 original photographic prints made by John Reardon at the time, kindly on loan from Birmingham Museums Trust on behalf of Birmingham City Council, alongside 207 images curated from the original negatives by Derek Bishton which have never before been seen in public.

This collection of images presents a unique record of a vibrant, multicultural community at the moment it first became visible and offers an opportunity to look back at our local communities and see what has changed.

Handsworth Self-portraits, Derek Bishton, Brian Homer and John Reardon, 1979.