Notting Hill 1990

Notting Hill Carnival, 1990. Peter Marshall 90-821-51_2400

Were we in normal times, today I would be thinking about going to Notting Hill tomorrow for the first of two days of Carnival. Much to my surprise I find it was eight years ago that I last went, having been on holiday away from London several years, and deciding the weather wasn’t really right some others. But perhaps I’m just getting old and was finding the music and the crowds too much some other times. At least this year I don’t have to make a decision.

Notting Hill Carnival, 1990. Peter Marshall 90-822-63_2400

The Notting Hill Carnival’s origins are in a ‘Caribbean Carnival’, an indoor event organised by Claudia Webb in 1959, the year after the Notting Hill race riots. The first procession was an impromptu one in 1966 from a neighbourhood street party, but it was in the mid-1970s that in began to be a major festival with a large attendance. But heavy-handed policing led to battles between mainly Caribbean youth and the police, luridly reported by newspapers and broadcast media which made many of us reluctant to attend the annual event.

Notting Hill Carnival, 1990. Peter Marshall 90-820-14_2400

August was in the 1980s was also a month when I was often in Paris and it was only in 1990 that I decided I had to go and photograph Carnival, and was both deafened and exhilarated by the energy and joy of the event. For the next twenty or so years – with a few exceptions when I was out of the country or crippled by injury – I photographed the event, at first mainly in black and white but later on colour film and then digital.

Notting Hill Carnival, 1990. Peter Marshall 90-822-64_2400

I’ve just spent a day putting my black and white pictures from the first ten years I attended, starting in 1990, onto Flickr. Some of them have been seen before in a number of group shows, including one in Notting Hill itself. I had a small one-person show at the Museum of London in the late 1990s, and put some on the web at Fixing Shadows, one of the first sites showcasing ‘straight photography’ on the web. This led to a 20 print portfolio with comments by George Mentore, published as ‘Notting Hill in Carnival’ in Visual Anthropology Review in 1999. I also showed the same number of prints in ‘English Carnivals‘ at the Shoreditch Gallery and Barbican Library in 2008, and later in the 2018 CafĂ© Royal volume, ‘Notting Hill Carnival in the 1990s’.

Notting Hill Carnival, 1990. Peter Marshall 90-828-45_2400

But for the Flickr album, which now contains 260 photographs, most of them published for the first time, I went back to the contact sheets. Most of those early years I went on both the Sunday – Children’s Day and the Bank Holiday Monday, probably averaging around 300 exposures on each. Probably a total of over 6000 images. But some of those were in colour, a few panoramic, so the 260 are from perhaps 4500 black and white frames. They include quite a few I wonder why I haven’t shown them before.

Notting Hill Carnival, 1990. Peter Marshall 90-824-13_2400

Technically they are quite varied, including some I’ve carefully balanced and retouched for publication and others that are untouched raw scans. Not every picture is critically sharp, as I was often working with no time to refocus and sometimes while in the middle of dancing crowds and concentrating on emotion rather than technique.

Notting Hill Carnival, 1990. Peter Marshall 90-818-56_2400

All the pictures in today’s post are from my first year at Carnival in 1990, when I think I was just beginning to get into the subject. More from 1991 and later to follow.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


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