Setting up a self-portrait activity was de rigeur for many community arts projects, offering the opportunity to create an image of yourself, get a copy of the photograph and to be part of an (almost) instantaneous exhibition. Jubilee Arts had a double-decker bus with a darkroom, where negatives could be processed and photographs produced for show the next day, attached to sheets of cardboard or a washing line. The Bus was also used as a print studio, a meeting space, as a mobile film unit and many other things. Often, with great excitement, people ran the self-portrait activity themselves, as you can see by the occasional askew framing of the images. Other times, Jubilee ran photographic sessions with local groups, inviting them to portray their friends and neighbours. The immediate point of point of reference for Jubilee was the 1979 ‘Handsworth Self-Portrait’ organised by Derek Bishton, Brian Homer and John Reardon (who also founded 10-8 photographic magazine), who built a stall on Grove Lane with a simple studio set-up – a 35mm camera mounted on a tripod and a backdrop – and signs in English, Urdu and Punjabi, inviting passers-by to take their own portrait.
Today this form of portraiture has mutated into the taking of selfies – every minute some 27,800 photos are uploaded to Instagram – but the sharing of self-portraits pre-dates the internet. These Jubilee self-portrait photographs come from a seemingly far less self-conscious era, a time when people did not have either have ready access to cameras or control of their image, they provide a remarkable record of the way we were.