Socialist Worker

Return of the Rudeboy photographs showcase people's defiance and dignity

by Brian Richardson
Issue No. 2409

This is a slightly strange, but welcome exhibition. 

It presents the Rudeboy subculture—both past and present—through a series of portraits and installations.

But it’s more than just a collection of staged photographs showing sharply dressed black people. 

Historically rudeboys, and girls, pride themselves in a sense of style and creativity. In however distorted a fashion, they are parading an identity and individuality that is so often stifled by the oppressive society we live in. 

Viewing the images I was reminded of two previous exhibitions I’ve seen. 

One was of the Windrush generation who proudly sent home photographs of themselves from the “Mother Country”. The other was of white working class families in their “Sunday Best”. 

What has struck me about these photographs is the defiance and dignity in the appearance of the subjects. 

There is a sparkle to them and glint in their eye and appearance as they throw off the drudgery and uniformity of daily life.

The “return” is also a nod to an earlier era when, in London and elsewhere, black and white communities were first beginning to mix and establish the multicultural society we should be proud to defend today. 

One of my favourite photographs is of Pauline Black, lead singer of the legendary 2-Tone band The Selector. 

Elsewhere, the presence of Don Letts is a reminder of his links with The Clash and the first great Rock Against Racism movement.

Return of the Rudeboy - Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA. Until 25 August, free

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Tue 24 Jun 2014, 17:34 BST
Issue No. 2409
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