Join the Autograph APB for the opening of Raphael Albert: Miss Black and Beautiful. Autograph APB is proud to present the first major solo exhibition of photographs by the late Raphael Albert – cultural promoter, entrepreneur and photographer. For more than three decades from the late 1960s to the early 1990s, Albert organised and documented numerous black beauty pageants and other cultural events in London, while building up a portfolio of photographs of aspiring models. His long and successful career as a promoter and chronicler of pageants included the establishment of Miss Black and Beautiful, Miss West Indies in Great Britain, and Miss Grenada.
These competitions celebrated the global ‘Black is Beautiful’ aesthetic of the 1970s in a local west London context: paired with the obligatory bathing costumes and high heels, Albert’s contestants often sported large Afro hairstyles, inventing and reinventing themselves on stage while articulating a particular and multifaceted black femininity as part of a widely contested and ambiguous cultural performance.
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. Albert’s photographs serve as testament to this profound moment of self-articulation and collective celebration in London’s pan Afro-Caribbean communities.