Unseen rare archive photographs of influential black music artists including Stevie Wonder, Grace Jones, Burning Spear and Jay-Z taken by film maker, artist and photographer Pogus Caesar went on display at Fazeley Studios, the new home for Birmingham city’s creative and digital industries.

The exhibition, Muzik Kinda Sweet: Photographs by Pogus Caesar 1985 – 2009, featured 37 iconic images of A-list stars and influential musical figures captured onstage and off in and around Birmingham and London.

Uniquely shot in black and white on a Canon Sure Shot autofocus camera over the past 25 years, the photographs offer a stark alternative to the digital performance photography of today.
The silver gelatin print collection, drawn from Caesar’s OOM Gallery Archives, offers an evocative and nostalgic snapshot of the mid eighties through to present day – candid pictures on city streets contrasting with stageside moments illustrate not only the energy of live performance and of every day life but also the rich musical heritage of Birmingham.

Muzik Kinda Sweet will feature intimate shots from Stevie Wonder’s 1989 sessions at Central Music Studios, legendary reggae producer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry in full regalia, a playful Rita Marley wife of the late Bob Marley and the opening night of Grace Jones’s triumphant 2009 UK tour at Symphony Hall, Birmingham. Other rare images feature Jay-Z, Cameo, Jimmy Cliff, Roland Gift, Will Smith and reggae legends Burning Spear, Augustus Pablo and Sly Dunbar.

The exhibition will be unveiled at the official launch of Fazeley Studios, where Caesar’s vision of Birmingham’s past success as a cultural centre will blend with a celebration of the cutting edge independent artists, photographers and designers who are driving Birmingham’s surging creative quarter.

Caesar is best known for his 35mm black and white photography and compelling montages, which he shoots on Nikon and Canon Sure Shot cameras, purchased in the 1980’s. The young Caesar developed a passion for music from listening to Roy Orbison, Duke Ellington and Nat King Cole on his parent’s stereogram, and from later seeing touring reggae, soul, hip hop, funk, pop and jazz artists performing in the West Midlands before going on to become household names.

Most of Caesar’s UK photography is based around his home city of Birmingham and includes documenting well-known personalities such as Jesse Jackson, Desmond Tutu and Julie Christie.

Caesar has documented important events such as the Handsworth riots, the Birmingham tornado and the regeneration of the Bullring. Caesar has visited places as diverse as South Africa, Jamaica, America, Albania and India to photograph people and events.

Speaking about his motivation for Muzik Kinda Sweet, Caesar said:

“From looking at record sleeves as a child growing up in Sparkbrook and Aston, to having the honour years later of being in the company of such great artists in Birmingham and beyond, I wanted to contribute to the musical legacy of Birmingham through my imagery.”
“Muzik Kinda Sweet is dedicated not only to those who remember seeing Curtis Mayfield walking through the Bull Ring or watching Ike and Tina Turner performing at the Top Rank Club on Dale End but also to the younger generation who hear the influence of older musical artists in the sounds of today.”

Muzik Kinda Sweet was open to the public with free admission from 27 February to 4 May.

27 FEBRUARY — 4 MAY 2009

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