A view through the Urban Eye of Charlie Phillips at Nottingham's New Art Exchange

By Culture24 Reporter Published: 19 April 2013

Exhibition preview: Charlie Phillips: The Urban Eye, New Art Exchange, Nottingham, April 20 – July 6 2013

A photo of a couple
© Charlie Phillips
The Notting Hill Charlie Phillips grew up in was somewhat different from our swanky notions of the area today.

Arriving as a young chap from Kingston in 1956, hostility and prejudice haunted his upbringing. But he found an escape in a Kodak Brownie given to him by a black American serviceman, through which he portrayed his family, friends and the surrounding Caribbean community, developing his shots in the bath at home after his parents had gone to bed (they were, apparently, simply glad he was off the streets).

Phillips describes his method as akin to a hunter stalking his prey. He follows urban dandies over crossings, elderly women leading black children home after shopping and mixed race couples striking determined, optimistic poses.

It builds up to an atmospheric portrait of a West London neighbourhood with a contested past during the 1950s and 1960s.

Curator Paul Goodwin says Phillips has gone beyond documenting a community in a compelling contribution to street-based urban photography.

“His work is as significant as great chroniclers of everyday street life,” he says, comparing the artist with eastern Europe observer Markéta Luskačová, 1960s northern documenter Shirley Baker and Tom Wood, who’s perhaps best known for his portraits from nightclubs and Liverpool buses during the latter third of the 20th century.

“Each photograph tells ‘other’ stories.

“They are often hidden and submerged about life in that fabled part of London.

“But they’re also stories about the rise of modern multicultural London and the migrant experience in the city.”

  • Open 9am-5pm (closed Sunday). Admission free. Follow the gallery on Twitter @newartexchange.

More pictures:

A photo of people dancing on a street
© Charlie Phillips
A photo of a man in a suit kissing a woman on a chair in a pub
© Charlie Phillips
A photo of a busy street
© Charlie Phillips
A black and white photo of a man in a suit during the 1960s
© Charlie Phillips
A photo of a group of women in a hall during the 1960s
© Charlie Phillips
A black and white photo of a man and a child
© Charlie Phillips
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