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Birmingham photographer Pogus Caesar talks to Richard Lutz about his latest exhibition, his days filming the Bullring under construction and how his snapper-career all started.

There’s something homespun about photographer Pogus Caesar. There’s no academic background, no long service in the shadow of a famous name, no long tenureship at a paper of magazine, no long days at a commercial studio.

No, this guy, from Sparkhill, got out his Instamatic about 25 odd years ago and started snapping, first of all on a holiday to New York. Small exhibitions popped up the UK and he saw a crack of opportunity. He was away.

‘I thought if I could do this,’ he explained, ‘let it continue.’

Today he’s at the ICC, home to his latest show. Timely enough, it’s about South Africa. The pictures are all in black and white - he doesn’t use colour - and they’re all shot on neg film - y’know those long rolls of thirty six frames you used to twirl around a spindle way back when before digital cameras and mobiles.

‘I love the feel and quality of black and white. Plus I love film instead of digital because it gives me warmth. Also with film you have only 36 chances and it makes you economical.’

The exhibition is two dozen pictures of life on the streets of the Host Nation. Like a lot of Caesar’s stuff, they are small pictures that grab a second or two of a person’s life. There’s a boy standing outside a row of township toilets, a man trimming his hedge, a photograph- hinting of menace- of a little kid with a small knife in his small hand.

His photographs raised comment. Some said it didn’t reflect the South Africa they knew or came to know through television.

‘But it’s the South Africa I saw and brought back. The images speak for themselves.’

Caesar, who was born in St Kitts but raised in Birmingham, sees picture wherever he goes. He spent three years cataloguing the demolition of the old Bullring and re building of the new one. He took upwards of 800 frames that saw him scampering to the top of the Odeon, jumping barriers at night or chatting up the construction workers for access.. ‘It’s the most worthwhile project that’s come out of Birmingham for me.’

‘The images speak for themselves.’

Pogus Caesar’s pictures of South Africa are in the ICC foyer until 4th June. For more information:

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Watch the interview here


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