Liz Johnson Artur Biography
Born in Bulgaria in 1964 and based in South East London, Liz Johnson Artur is a Russian-Ghanaian artist who grew up in East Europe and Germany, far from her African roots. It was in 1985, during a trip to Brooklyn, New York, that she had her first encounter with a Black community. There, Liz realised how eager she was to connect with communities. For her, photography became a tool for exploring her Blackness, and discovering things about herself and others.
In 1991 Liz arrived London; with her study in Peckham she has documented – over the course of almost 30 years – Black diaspora in the vibrant South East. She wanted “to record the normality of Black lives and Black culture, which is something that isn’t often reflected in the mainstream media.” The camera, for Liz, facilitates access to places and people linked to her origins and identity. Her work moves beyond stereotypes of Black people, narrating stories of resilience on the streets of South London. Black Balloon Archive, an ongoing project started in 1991, is an archive of pictures about the Black diaspora around the world. Her pictures are particularly relevant as a medium where people represent themselves; quoted in ID Magazine, Liz states: “There’s a sense of pride in how people display themselves. It’s why I like street portraits, because I think there’s a real presence that everyone has”.
In 2018, Guidhall Gallery acquired one of her works, making Liz the first POC artist to be part of its collection. Even though her work is born of an intimate necessity, it is political in “the sense that it’s about communicating, about being able to understand people’s struggles, to learn how we can live together.” In a world where Black communities are neglected and underrepresented, Liz’s work is a statement of reaffirmation and courage.