If you’re not already familiar with Russian-Ghanaian photographer Liz Johnson Artur by name, you’ll definitely have come across her extraordinary photography. Famed for capturing intimate photos of black communities and individuals across much of the world over the last 30 years, her first solo show in the UK only landed in London in summer 2019.
Liz was tapped by Fenty to shoot Rihanna’s designs on the streets of Peckham; the campaign dropped in August and, needless to say, was a gorgeous merging of black British culture and fashion on an international scale. Up next is an expansive exhibition at London’s Southbank Centre. London is Love is a new project that celebrates communities in south London – specifically in the boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark.
"London is Love gave me a great opportunity to represent what I love most about the city – 'people'," Liz explained. "Whether it’s my friends, neighbours, my favourite book shop, or kids riding horses in Brixton … Everyone I met and photographed has strengthened my belief that the best thing in London is its people."
She moved to London in 1991 and rather anticlimactically landed in Elephant and Castle. "I was a bit disappointed seeing the shopping centre for the first time. The life around it, the different communities that I have seen making it their own over the years, made it one of my favourite places in south London," Liz says.
It's these very people who are at the heart of London is Love. In the project you’ll find shots of those kids riding horses in Brixton, courtesy of the Ebony Horse Club, which gives opportunities to young people in the area’s most disadvantaged communities. There’s the Blackfriars Settlement, a group that celebrates 'positive ageing' and invites the over-60s to get involved in a variety of events and activities. Archbishop’s Park Gardening Club, a 10-year-old group that maintains the Lambeth green space also features alongside Elephant and Castle’s Black Cowboy Coffee, a local favourite which was founded in 2015.
Liz also spent time with creative collective BORN N BREAD – an exciting sisterhood (pictured above) made up of friends whose talents span videography, styling, DJ-ing, brand consultancy and more. London is Love also takes us inside The Chateau (also pictured here), an underground LGBTQ+ bar and cultural space that was opened to combat the desperate lack of spaces for the queer community in the area. These are the communities built by and for the people who truly needed them and now thrive within them. The exhibition itself is a beautiful introduction to the pioneers of south London, finding the joy, vibrancy and innovation in the normality we too often overlook.
"It shows people from south London – different ages, different backgrounds, different talents and all genders. They also represent London as a whole, and it is the best thing London has to offer."