Charlie Phillips

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Early Years

Roland “Charlie” Philips was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1944. He grew up with his grandparents in St. Mary after his parents emigrated to Britain. He joined his parents in London when he was eleven years old, and the family lived among other Afro-Caribbean migrants in Notting Hill, at the time an extremely poor area, blighted by racism and violence. Philips worked at his parents’ restaurant on Portobello Road. His photographic career began when an American GI who was stationed in Notting Hill at the time gave him a Kodak Retinette camera. Philips recorded the Afro-Caribbean community in Notting Hill and the surrounding areas, using money from his paper-round to buy darkroom materials and his parents’ bathtub to develop his prints.

Photographic Career

Philips documented the shifts taking place in the cultural landscape throughout the 1960s in Notting Hill, capturing the protests and race riots as well as the 1960s street parties and the birth of Carnival. He travelled throughout Europe, taking photographs of the student uprising in Paris and Rome in 1968 and 1969. He had his first exhibition in Milan in 1972 where he showed a body of work exploring the plight of urban migrant workers. As a freelance photographer, Philips has worked for magazines including Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and Life.

Publications and Exhibitions

Phillips always came back to photograph the people and places associated with Notting Hill, and his works depict both significant and everyday moments in the area’s history, particularly in relation to the integration of migrant communities. His works were published as Notting Hill in the Sixties in 1991. Beginning in the 1980s, Phillips regularly photographed funerals in West London, including Kensal Green Cemetery. These images were collected in the publication How Great Thou Art: 50 Years of Afro-Caribbean Funerals in 2014. Phillips’ work has been exhibited at Tate Britain and Museum of London and were included in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s 2015 exhibition Staying Power: Photographs of Black British Experience, 1950s – 1990s.