Colin Jones was born in London in 1936 and grew up in the East End. His career started when as a dancer with the English Royal Ballet he began taking photographs of the company. He went on to become a photographer for The Observer in 1962, producing a series of photographs recording mining communities in the North East of England.
Throughout the 1960s and 70s Jones would be commissioned by the Sunday Times Magazine in 1973 to document the Islington-based Harambee housing project for young black people.
He carried on taking photographs of the house and its inhabitants until 1976, creating The Black House series. The photographs, like much of his work, are a record of daily life within a marginalised community.
This series of photographs was taken in a hostel known as ‘The Black House’ on Holloway Road in Islington, London. The house, officially called the Harambee Housing Project, was a government-funded local community initiative which aimed to provide rehabilitation and support for disillusioned black adolescents.
As the first generation of Afro-Caribbean people to be born in Britain, a number of young people experienced prejudice and discrimination in education, employment and from the police and the criminal justice system.
The late 1960s and early 70s were a complex time for migrant communities in Britain – the political Right demanded the tightening of anti-immigration legislation, and discrimination and unemployment were common.
At the same time, the 1966 Local Government Act extended funds to local authorities to institute a wide range of community-based projects.
Herman Edwards, a former bricklayer, took up the challenge of offering a refuge for the many young black people who had become alienated from their parents, or who had been in care and were now trying to make their way in the world and set up Harambee, the Black House.
The images were published as a front cover feature story entitled ‘On the Edge of the Ghetto’. A book of these images, The Black House, was published by Prestel in 2006.