Artist, photographer and film producer Pogus Caesar is inspired by the people of Sparkbrook.
People make places, which is why MADE was delighted to invite Pogus Ceasar to launch his new collection, Sparkbrook Pride, as part of Birmingham Book Festival. We were equally delighted that Professor Roger Shannon was able to introduce Pogus with these words:
It's the sign of a creative city when alongside the Festival's big hitters - such writers as Will Self, Ian Rankin and Tony Harrisson - that we can also celebrate our own indigenous talents, like the novelist Helen Cross, the publisher Tindal St Press and, of course, the artist Pogus Caesar, whose 'Sparkbrook Pride' we celebrate this evening.
Pogus is a friend and colleague, of some long standing. I have been an admirer of his artistic activities from the time of his pointillist drawings and illustrations, which he emabarked upon in the late seventies. We have also collaborated on a number of projects ourselves, one being the sadly missed, and award winning, Birmingham International Film and Television Festival, of which Pogus in the late eighties was the Chairman, and myself the Artistic Director. And, coming bang up to date, there is the hour long music documentary, Made in Birmingham ham/Reggae Punk Bhangra, which I produced last year, and in which Pogus appears as a valued interviewee, and also as the source of an invaluable photographic archive.
Interestingly, in that film Pogus talks about the role of music in his own family home, as he experienced it as a small boy. With the benefit of this lovely book, I now can see that he was talking about his Sparkbrook home and the life of the Caesar family in that part of Birmingham, as he was growing up.
Many artists wrap up the subject of their art work in obscure forms and personal languages. Some times it feels as if they are fearful of confronting their material directly, without the barrier of obscurantism - a kind of comfort blanket of protection, maybe.
The joy of Pogus's work is that his honesty and frankness come before such artificiality; he doesn't transplant, like a ventriloquist, his voice onto the circumstances he's photographing; he allows the moment to breathe and the humanity to come through. His creativity is expressed in that intuitive understanding between himself and what and whom he is depicting.
And this is all too evident in this stunning image narrative of Sparkbrook, where the breadth of belonging and the width of the world comes tumbling out from all sides; the global reach is remarkable - each page a portrait not just of a person, but a jig saw of connections within Birmingham and beyond.
Pakistani, Scottish, Yemeni, British, Somalian, St Lucian, Irish, Kittian, Indian, Jamaican, Sudanese, Afghan, Bajan, Sri Lankian, Australian etc
So many diverse backgrounds, and so many diverse portraits, all showing pride in Sparkbrook, and pride in their backgrounds - truth, if it needs to be told, that Birmingham is a genuine city of Arrivals, who continually enrich and nourish the culture on our collective doorsteps.
This is a busy week for Pogus; after this Launch today, he'll be launching on Wednesday in the second city they call London his music themed exhibition, Muzik Kinda Sweet, at the O2. That exhibition concentrates on the music of the Black Atlantic, to use Paul Gilroy's evocative description of the cultural exchange between these shores and those of the United States. I'm sure we'd all wish him well for that show too.
Cities need artists like Pogus, who thru' thick and thin, harsh and even harsher times, the rough with the smooth, capture the changing face of our quotidian environment and give us a social history from the streets, a history that too many civic champions neglect and consider not worth the expenditure of chronicling.
It's a pleasure to be introducing the man behind 'Sparkbrook Pride', the man behind the camera, the pride of his city, a true chronicler of the world around him, and Birmingham's 21st century flaneur....Pogus Caesar.
Professor Roger Shannon
Edge Hill University, Near Liverpool