Autograph Media

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Autograph Media is a new photography licensing agency specializing in all aspects of race and cultural diversity. Based, physically, in the UK, their ever-growing collection covers a wide range of historic and contemporary subjects from the abolition of slavery through to the most influential people in music, film, sport, TV and youth culture.

Autograph Media curated this comprehensive collection from established photographers and content partners worldwide. As one begins to drip into their collection, their dedication and passion becomes evident, as differing historical periods and socio-political moments accrete into a giant tapestry.

Interested in writing about the Hollywood “#OscarsSoWhite” phenomena, earlier this year? How about accessing photographs of African-American actors who attended the 2016 Oscars?

Or maybe you want to highlight grimmer fare; such as images that underscore the humanitarian crisis of Syrian refugees? Bulent Kilic’s photograph of a Syrian refugee family from Aleppo, huddling under a shelter during a rainy day on March 8, 2014, at Uskudar, transmits the visceral pathos of current events.

Autograph Media’s website has been constructed with a rigorous and thoughtful dynamic, in terms of offering navigation through their archives; which are sorted in a number of different user-accessible (and often scholarly) ways.

Perhaps most enlightening (and wonderfully convenient!) is their Calendar section: which hones in on images that could be used to commemorate certain events. For instance, in December 2016, you can access sixteen different images relating to 18/12/1946: in 75 Years: Birth of Steve Biko, founder of the Black Consciousness Movement. Biko was the legendary anti-apartheid activist and the founder of the Black Consciousness Movement, aimed at mobilizing and empowering the urban black population in South Africa (Biko died in 1977, from injuries sustained while in police custody…).

Features, showcases carefully curated photography and commentary relating to race and cultural diversity, and chapters of both celebration and oppression that have shaped our world. One such example is the fight, in Alabama, of Mildred and Richard Loving; the subjects of a 1950s interracial marriage that had to fight its way through the courts; that will also be released as a Hollywood feature film (in a neat move, the website also delineates the legal differences in miscegenation between the US and the UK, for additional perspective).

Anniversaries highlights upcoming important milestones in history, accompanied by a carefully curated collection of relevant photographs. There is fantastic supporting information and essay sin moments such as Claudette Colvin: Rosa Parks’ Teenage Predecessor. This is the story of Claudette Colvin, who refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus nine months before Rosa Parks. Why wasn’t she the face of a new burgeoning Civill Rights resistance? Aged just 15, Claudette Colvin was thrown off a bus in the same town in almost identical circumstances. In response to her protest on the bus, the police were called and Colvin was dragged crying and screaming from the bus and thrown in a cell until her mother and church minister were able to bail her out

However, the Civil Rights movement that rallied behind Parks’ act of defiance failed to support Colvin. When asked why she thought this was, she remembers Rosa Parks being more ‘accessible’. “Her skin texture was the kind that people associate with the middle class,” says Colvin. “She fit that profile.” Claudette recalls, “My mother told me to be quiet about what I did. She told me: ‘Let Rosa be the one. White people aren’t going to bother Rosa – her skin is lighter than yours and they like her.’” This was a perception that extended up to even Civil Rights leaders.

In Opinion, guest contributors confront important issues and provide alternative perspectives to known chapters, from the past to the modern day. They also shine a light on surprising, lesser-known, stories of inspiring people. Less a photographic resource than much-needed contextual information (that, in itself, could spark off new curations), there are essays such as Alternative Perspectives – Seeing Through Race; in which Doctor Mark Sealy MBE argues that “I believe that we will, in time, come to realize that it is no longer valid to keep on inventing the ‘other’ in photography.”

The parent company of Autograph Media is Autograph ABP, a charity supported by Arts Council England that, since 1988, has collaborated with artists, collectors, curators and institutions across the globe to explore issues of cultural difference, social justice and identity politics. For more information, their site is here: http://autograph-abp.co.uk

Regardless of one’s focus, there is a compelling resource here for inclusion in future exhibitions, publishing projects and educational programs.

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