Co-founder of Choice FM Radio
Neil Kenlock is a Jamaican-born photographer and media professional who has lived in London, England, since the 1960s, and is acknowledged as being “at the forefront of documenting the black experience in the UK”. He was co-founder of Choice FM the first successful radio station granted a licence to cater for the black community in Britain.
As a youth in south London Neil captured in photographs the lives of the local community as well as becoming known for portraits taken on family occasions, his work as a whole coming to represent an exploration of many aspects of black British culture and history.
After working for photographic studios, in 1973 he became a staff photographer for West Indian World, one of the first national black British newspapers.In his first two decades as a professional photographer he specialised in fashion, beauty, celebrities and the cultural lifestyles of Black Britons.
During the late 1960s and the 1970s he became involved with the British Black Panther movement, becoming the group’s official photographer and documenting anti-racist protests and demonstrations in the UK.
In 1979 Neil co-founded the pioneering Black lifestyle publication ‘Root Magazine’ – coined as the British Ebony only more connected to how people live in Britain -published until 1987.
Key figures and leaders in the black community feature in his photographic archive, including Olive Morris, Althea Le Cointe, Courtney Laws, Audley Baines, Darcus Howe and Lionel Morrison. Among international superstars whom Kenlock has photographed over the years are Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Eartha Kitt, Donald Quarrie, Eddy Grant, James Baldwin and Muhammad Ali, icons of reggae music such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff. Desmond Dekker and John Holt, and political personalities including Diane Abbott, Michael Manley and Indira Gandhi.
In August 2018, in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush bringing one of the first large groups of post-war West Indian immigrants to the United Kingdom, the Black Cultural Archives (BCA) showed 70 of Kenlock’s photographs in the exhibition Expectations: The untold story of Black community leaders, curated by his daughter Emelia Kenlock, featuring such notable African and Caribbean subjects as Olive Morris, Darcus Howe, Arthur Wint, Lord David Pitt, Courtney Law and Steve Barnard. Funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project “aims to give access to examples of black leadership, as well as archive material outside of the normal educational environment”.