BRIAN GRIFFIN: The Black Kingdom



Immensely sad to hear the news of the death of a good friend, the amazing photographer Brian Griffin, at the weekend. Brian was quite remarkable. He was always an innovator, always busy, always coming up with new ideas, new projects and new ways of doing things. I first met him well over thirty years ago and every time I met him over the years he would enthusiastically tell me of a new project he was embarking on. 

Our relationship became closer when we worked together on ’The Black Kingdom’ which we published back in 2013. I had seen the work at his extraordinary exhibition at the  Collège des Bernardins in  Paris in 2010. It was such powerful show that it was simply impossible not to publish it. 

‘Young’ Brian touched so many lives in so many different ways. It will be hard, and very strange, not to see him at the various festivals and events at which we would regularly see each other. He got so much enjoyment from talking about life and about photography, meeting old friends and getting to know new people. And we all got so much pleasure just from him being there. RIP Brian. 

Recognised as one of the UK’s most important photographers of the last forty years, Brian Griffin grew up near Birmingham amongst the factories of the Black Country. His parents were factory workers and from birth Griffin seemed set to follow in their footsteps. And so, on leaving school at the age 16, he began working in a factory, just like everyone else around him. A year later he moved to British Steel working as a trainee pipework engineering estimator in a job that involved costing systems for the nuclear power stations that were then being built. He remained there four years before escaping the tedium of the office by enrolling to study photography at Manchester College of Art.

The Black Kingdom is a visual autobiography of Brian Griffin’s life during the 1950s and 60s where everything surrounding him seemed to emanate from the factory. The book is a dissection of life in industrial England after the Second World War and shows the influences that would inspire the creative output of a highly successful photographer. For Griffin, those first 21 years living in a warren of terraced streets set amongst factories and continually polluted by their smells and noise, remain indelibly printed on him and have shaped the person he is.

Brian Griffin has exhibited and published widely. In 1989 he had a one-man show at the National Portrait Gallery, London. The same year The Guardian newspaper selected him as ‘The Photographer of the Decade’ and LIFE magazine used his photograph ‘A Broken Frame’ as the covershot for their feature ‘Greatest Photographs of the Eighties’. During the 1990s Brian Griffin retired from photography and focused on directing advertising, pop videos and short films. He returned to photography in 2001, reestablishing himself once again at the pinacle of British Photography.

Clothbound hardback
108 pages, 118 colour & duotone photos
340mm x 250mm
ISBN: 978-1-907893-34-6