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by Sabrina Fearon-Melville

Rising artist and The Power Of Black Identity photography winner Karis Beaumont talks about finding inspiration in history.

Amidst the hype following on from Steve McQueen’s Small Axe, Hertfordshire-based photographer Karis Beaumont’s 2016 archival project Bumpkin Files has been re-energised with more stories of Black Brits who live outside of the London-centric bubble. Set to showcase her photos at The Power of Festival this month, we caught up with the rising star to hear all about her innovative series and unique artistic lens.

“The original idea came to me in 2016 when I noticed a void when speaking about Black British History on a commercial level and culturally [with regards to outside of London]. I felt like marketers and agents aren’t focusing on the Black experience outside of London.”

Having two parents who also grew up outside of the capital, Karis lived off the experience they told her about their early life in Hertfordshire. Karis soon realised she wanted to understand more about people who were living outside of the London-centric circle and invite others to share their experiences also: “I then moved on to shooting portraits of my friends in the community and then started an archive page on Instagram, placing existing images (which I struggled to find online) and putting them all in one place.”

Now the archive has grown, Karis takes submissions of images centred around the Black diaspora that are Pre-2004 and showcases those who were raised or living outside of the big smoke. People are also invited to submit the story behind the images, giving more life to the photos that end up on Instagram.

Launched earlier this year, Bumpkin Files’ new website seeks to celebrate the experience of the outer-London experiences through sharing stories, businesses based outside of London and creative spaces which exist in places “you never would’ve thought of”.

“London has always been the centre of everything and I think as creatives it’s important we pass the torch and utilise the connections around us instead of constantly looking to climb the ladder.”

Karis’ experience of travelling both in the UK and abroad have furthered her desire to ensure that diversity in all parts of the UK and the rest world which are often seen as underrepresented within the space are seen on both the archival Instagram and the new website.

“Because we are constantly shifting focus, I think it’s more important to have that conversation. London isn’t the only diverse city in the UK and it’s also not home to the only Black British experience.”

Karis hopes to continue to share the images she has collected in more curated gallery spaces to bridge the gap between Black “country people” and “city people” across the UK and mainland Europe.

Karis Beaumont’s The Power Of Black Identity Portraits will be available to view at The Photographers Gallery from 12-13 June 2021. Admission is free.

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