Armet Francis: Beyond the Black Triangle

For over four decades, has been on a photographic mission to chronicle the African diaspora. As a Jamaican-British photographer deeply attuned to black consciousness, his captured moments are affirmations of life, highlighting the resilience and endurance of African diasporic cultures.
Having migrated from Jamaica to Britain as a young child in the 1950s, Francis experienced a profound sense of displacement and political alienation. Feeling culturally adrift, he turned to photography as a means to convey his yearning to connect with the diverse and vibrant Pan-African world.
The concept of ‘The Black Triangle’ emerged in Francis’s photographic practice in 1969. In his own words, the idea stemmed from a “personal need to explore the dimensions of the experiences of Black people… the triangle first came to me in thoughts of the slave trade route, that is how I came to live in the Triangle: Africa, the Americas, and Europe… I had to capture it through my camera, through my work… A man reacting to his destiny.”
Francis’s photographic journey spanning over 40 years encapsulates the fragmented experiences of diasporic communities. His 1970s Brixton Market fashion shoots capture playful and rare moments of black joy and celebration. His 2008 portraits of those who arrived on the Empire Windrush are crucial interventions, assigning names to the faces of those who embarked on that historic voyage that forever changed Britain. He documented young black Londoners protesting in the streets against the lack of justice for those who perished in the New Cross Fire of 1981, as well as political activists like Angela Davis. Critically, within the realm of British photography, Francis has devoted his extensive career to providing visibility to a proud and radical individuality.

A portrait of Armet Francis

About the Author

Armet Francis was born in St Elizabeth, rural Jamaica, in 1945. At the age of three, his parents moved to London, leaving him in the care of his grandparents. He later joined them in London in 1955. In an interview for the British Library’s Oral History of British Photography, Francis recounted his experiences of being the only black child in a school in London Docklands.
After leaving school at 14, he initially worked for an engineering firm in Bromley. Subsequently, he found a position as an assistant in a West End photographic studio, setting the stage for a successful career as a freelance photographer for fashion magazines and advertising campaigns.
In 1969, Francis embarked on a lifelong project, realizing the lack of social documentary images in his work as a Black photographer. He returned to Jamaica in 1969, marking the beginning of a 14-year endeavor to make sense of his project. Inspired by his participation in Festac ’77 in Lagos, Nigeria, he dedicated himself to photographing the people of the African diaspora.
Notably, in 1983, Francis became the first Black photographer to have a solo exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery in London, showcasing The Black Triangle series. The following year, he published a book with the same title, and Children of the Black Triangle followed four years later. He co-founded the Association of Black Photographers (now Autograph ABP) in 1988 and served as the official photographer for Africa ’05, a significant celebration of African arts held throughout 2005 in the UK.
Francis, alongside Charlie Phillips and Neil Kenlock, was featured in the 2005/2006 exhibition Roots to Reckoning at the Museum of London. The British Library conducted an oral history interview with him in 2013 for its Oral History of British Photography collection.
His photographs played a prominent role in the Staying Power project, a collaborative effort by the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) and the Black Cultural Archives in 2015. Notably, the V&A museum featured Armet Francis’s Self-portrait in Mirror (1964) as the arresting first image, showcasing an intimate and honest self-portrait of Francis setting up his shot directly in front of a mirror. This self-portrait was a notable highlight in the exhibit, emphasizing Francis’s tender yet assertive approach to self-portraiture.


Armet Francis: Beyond the Black Triangle
until January 20, 2024
Autograph – London, UK


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