In 2003 Elms Lesters played host to an interactive photographic exhibition documenting second and third generation Asian youth from the 1970s to the present day.
“This is a unique and unprecedented body of work, pulling together fresh and unseen images, utilising existing photographic archives, personal collections and documentary photographs from Asian youth culture. The exhibition will show real people in real situations finding and developing their identity in a multicultural Britain. This is not a gritty expose, nor another dip into ‘eastern mysticism’ or the exotic. It will not reek of colonialism or stereotypical images using only flowing fabrics or food. O2 Changing Faces documents real-life images of an under-represented subculture, whose transition through oppression to empowerment has shaped their identities and bettered their life experience.”
Photographers like Dennis Morris, Derek Bishton and Jon Reardon depicted young Asians in Southall and the midlands in the 70’s and 80’s respectively, with their much acclaimed works, ‘Southall a home from home’ and ‘Home front’. The ‘Changing Faces’ exhibition also featured work from Anthony Lam’s images of early 90’s rave culture, Dave Swindells capture of the Bhangra phemomena and Rehan Jamil’s political repertoire. Also exhibited was new and unseen work from Suki Dhanda, especially commissioned to document present day peer groups and bring the exhibition to fruition.
Changing Faces showed images of youth culture through six different categories:
- School – These images showed how education extends from the classroom to the street focusing on kids as minorities wearing turbans in 70’s to groups of school kids all wearing hijab in the present day.
- Leisure – This was depicted through kids hanging out on the street in the 70’s to a young Prince Naseem Hamed training in a Sheffield gym, also Asian run youth centres and the rise of the Asian sportsman.
- Music and clubs – This was shown through images of daytime bhangra raves in the 80’s to the Asian underground scene and the revival of bhangra today. Interweaved were images of Asian teddy boys at a rock and roll convention in the 70’s and self -made 90’s rave parties.
- Activism – Images shown included those of political unrest at deportation laws and the apathy towards the police in the 70’s, aswell as young muslims fighting to keep land in Whitechapel for local community use.
- Work – Asians as factory workers in the 70’s dreaming of something better turns into the success of Joe Bloggs in the 90’s, the rise of the Indian restaurant worker to today’s Asians in a diverse range of occupations.
- Home – From images of kids playing on the streets, wearing traditional outfits to celebrate their rich heritage in the 70’s to a groom getting ready for his wedding day, still keeping those rites and rituals alive.
The exhibition was courtesy of PresStop Creatives, creative directors MeWe and O2 mobile communication.