Blackout Cloth History
History of the Blackout Cloth
In the mid-1940’s as German bombs blitzed London, my grandmother, Joan and her neighbours hung black sheets to block out the light emitting from the windows of their homes, so as not to guide the Luftwaffe planes on their deadly missions.
Over five decades later I was heading to The Gambia, West Africa to start a portrait project based in and around a sacred forest, Makasutu. Inspired by the work of Arkansas photographer, Mike Disfarmer, and Malian photographer, Malik Sidibé I decided to use a background cloth to create a simple continuity for each portrait.
Days before leaving for Africa I was still searching for a suitable piece of fabric when my grandmother offered up a black bedsheets sized cloth for the purpose. A couple of years ago I asked where she had bought the fabric, as I wanted a backup. It was only then that I found out the cloth was over 70 years old and had been used by the family as a ‘blackout’ curtain during World War Two.
Since 1997 I have used the cloth as a background to a number of portrait series of people living in and around areas of conflict and on the margins of modern society.
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Joan Millicent Fox
with the 'blackout' cloth on her 90th birthday