Born on the Caribbean island of Grenada in 1935, Raphael Albert moved to London in 1953. Studying photography at Ealing Technical College while working part-time at a cake factory, he soon picked up freelance jobs for black British papers such as West Indian World, The Gleaner, Caribbean Times, and New World, and also started to document the West Indian communities in Hammersmith and Fulham, photographing weddings, Christenings and other social events, and taking studio portraits of local families in his home.
In 1970 he established the Miss Black and Beautiful contest, followed by Miss West Indies in Great Britain, Miss Teenager of the West Indies in Great Britain, and Miss Grenada, running them via his company, Albert Promotions, and going on to set up a magazine called Charisma in 1984. The pageants ran for 30 years and he documented them all photographically, as well as commissioning other photographers to shoot them, and in 2007 he organised a display of their work during Black History Month titled Great Britain: Celebrating 30 Years of Beauty Pageants (1963-1993). Albert died in 2009.
Now Autograph ABP has put together a touring show of his beauty contest shots, Albert’s first major exhibition. On show at Birmingham’s MAC until 01 July, it shows the regular accoutrements of bathing suits and high heels, but also the ‘Black is Beautiful’ aesthetic of the 1970s – and beyond.
Raphael Albert – Miss Black and Beautiful is on show until 01 July at MAC Birmingham, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham B12 9QH https://macbirmingham.co.uk https://autograph-abp.co.uk/exhibitions/miss-black-and-beautiful