Handsworth Self Portrait: 40 Years On - Opening Event

Thu 25 April 2019

The Handsworth Self Portrait: 40 Years On exhibition by Derek Bishton, Brian Homer and John Reardon is now open in our Arena Gallery.

The free exhibition had an official launch on 30 March, and it's now on display until 2 June.

The launch was a great opportunity for people who were involved in the original project to come along and recognise themselves in the photos, 40 years on, and meet photographers Derek and Brian again. 

Thank you to everyone who came along - it was a brilliant atmosphere and it was fantastic to see friends reconnecting and feel the warmth of the community captured in self portraits back in 1979. Amazingly, some people looked as though they'd barely aged a day! Browse the gallery below to see for yourself!

About the exhibition

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, passing them the shutter release so they could control the decisive moment of how to present themselves and when they were ready for the picture to be taken.

More than 500 people stopped by to take part in this ground-breaking ‘Selfie’ project - some alone, some with friends or family, some striking formal poses, others being more playful. Everyone involved was offered the opportunity of receiving a free print to keep, and the project – which ran at weekends from August to October - generated a unique archive of images providing a snap shot of who was living and working in Handsworth at that time.

Now, 40 years on, this exhibition presents the original photographic prints, kindly on loan from Birmingham Museums Trust on behalf of Birmingham City Council, along with images never before seen in public. The collection of images presents a unique snapshot 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.

Thanks to Birmingham Museums and The Oakley Charitable Trust.

Images: Greg Milner Photography.