Richard Lutz reports on a city artist who portrays his hometown through the telling eye of a monochrome lens
Pogus Caesar, tv producer, photographer, artist and film-maker, is to be given an honorary doctorate for his contribution to the visual arts.
His varied work has appeared in print, in galleries over the world and on television for the past thirty years. But it’s his efforts with the camera for which he is most renowned. Birmingham City University is to highlight his “significant achievements” later this month at its degree ceremony.
Caesar said the world of photography first was opened to him in 1983. “I was in New York,” he recalled, “visiting a bookshop in Greenwich Village, and I came across a book by Diane Arbus. The work was urgent and immediately consumed me.”
“There are many other photographers who inspire me too, from Gordon Parks and Henri Cartier-Bresson to Dan Weiner and Paul Strand. Back then there was no internet, so I would visit Birmingham Central Library and discover a new creative world – a painstaking task but hugely rewarding task,” he added.
He shoots in black and white. And one of his most recent books, called Sparkbrook Pride 2011, is a compelling compilation of seventy monochrome images of this melting-pot Birmingham neighbourhood he lived in after his family arrived in the UK from St Kitts.
More recent work includes scenes from the US and the U.K:
Caesar learned quickly there was no easy way to earn a living as an artist. After school, he initially trained as a chef and then began painting while out of the kitchen. Then came photography.
“My very first camera was an Instamatic 110,” he recalls, “and then, after saving up, I purchased a Canon AF. Many of my friends had weighty camera bags containing Nikon, Olympus and Pentax, with flashguns, light meters and multiple lenses, while I carried this basic instrument. I’m still attached to my Canon Sure Shot. It fits in my pocket and is less intimidating. But it’s getting old now, so I’ll have to upgrade soon.”
Caesar is the former chair of The Birmingham International Film and Television Festival; has served as director of The West Midlands Minority Arts Council; and was head of multi-cultural programming at Central Television. His photographs have been shown internationally, including the V&A and, of course, in galleries throughout the West Midlands. Museums in Birmingham and Wolverhampton especially have collections of his work.
His latest book is Schwarz Flaneur , to be published soon. He will also be seen in a forthcoming BBC4 documentary about black artists.
Pogus Caesar photographed by Brian Benson Brian © Benson 2018.