Growing up in Bulgaria, Russia, and Germany, the photographer Liz Johnson Artur—whose mother is Russian and father is Ghanaian—had little contact with black communities or culture. Since she moved to London, in the early 1990s, photography has been a way for her both to make a living (she has shot for The Face and i-D and toured with Lady Gaga and M.I.A.) and to connect with people of African descent around the world. Artur has focused her lens on black love, family, and friendship for nearly three decades. In her Black Balloon Archive, the artist presents the beauty of everyday life in refreshingly candid black-and-white and color photographs taken across London, Paris, and New York, as well as multiple countries in Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean.
This exclusive photo portfolio documents the time Artur spent with a close-knit community of artists, performers, dancers, and clubbers in London this summer. She met the group through Negroma, a Berlin-based Brazilian performance artist and musician who was visiting the city. Many of the friends Negroma introduced Artur to—including Larry B, Miss Jason, SUUTOO, Covco, and Curtley—are featured in the photographs. Some are associated with the monthly East London club night PDA, which invites DJs, collectives, and artists to perform for their peers and create a non-binary space for self-expression. Negroma’s last evening in London coincided with a PDA “Ladies’ Night” party, at which Artur became the first photographer allowed to take pictures of the event.
There is a sense of intimacy in Artur’s photographs, born of her respect for and collaboration with her subjects. She is, she says, motivated by a personal desire to make connections with people, ever conscious of how they want to represent themselves, both in public and in private. For Artur, these pictures are just the beginning of a project that is “digging deeper into something that, for me, represents something of the ‘right here, right now’ happening in London.”