As one of Britain’s first black photographers Bandele ‘Tex’ Ajetunmobi was blazing a trail for others to follow but this really is only part of the story. As a disabled 26 year old in Nigeria, Tex’s childhood polio saw him regarded as an outcast. As a talented artist he’d served an apprenticeship with a portrait photographer in Lagos but was still struggling.
In 1947, his next step was to stowaway on a ship bound for England along with his Uncle Chris. Tex soon settled into life in East End London and his cameras went pretty much everywhere he did. This wasn’t a commercial venture but rather a labour of love and his documentation of underground life and in particular mixed race relationships are unusual for the time (1950s post-war London).
He met and fell in love with a white girl called Cissy who was married with two kids. When she separated from her husband she wasn’t allowed custody of the kids because Tex was black.
Tex’s photos are subtle, amusing and unaffected portraits taken over a 50 year period. Check a small selection out below. Sadly, Tex passed away in 1994 and unfortunately most of his photos were lost. However, his niece Victoria managed to retrieve a few hundred negatives from a skip and Tex’s legacy lives on at Autograph ABP in Shoreditch. Check out their website or even better, pay them a visit. They’re a friendly bunch and you’ll be assured of a warm welcome.
All Photographs © Bandele ‘Tex’ Ajetunmobi