Charlie Philips: Notting Hill Couple

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Charlie Philips: Notting Hill Couple
Charlie Phillips, 'Notting Hill Couple', 1967
Charlie Philips: Notting Hill Couple

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.

Philips knew personally most of the people he photographed, but the couple in this photograph were not friends of his. The photograph was taken at a house party, and Philips has since described how he was drawn to the pair, “I just thought they were beautiful.” Philips captured a moment when the young couple, a black man and white woman, are staring directly into the camera, his arm resting protectively on her shoulder. This image was taken in 1967, less than ten years after the Notting Hill riots. In this context it is easy to imagine how merely posing for that picture might have seemed like they were making a statement of defiance against the racist views that prevailed at the time.

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