Year on year during the week just gone, West London begins its annual tradition of prepping for the spectacle that is Notting Hill Carnival. It’s a mammoth task of organisation, joy (and Red Stripe), and one that London-based documentary filmmaker and photographer Buster Grey Jung knows well.
Last year Buster spent the days before carnival embedded in the communities who enable it to happen. Following several groups in the lead up, his resulting project The Parade to Notting Hill “reveals what happens behind the scenes,” exploring what the photographer describes as “the ‘between’ states where aspects of carnival culture seep into the everyday.”
Noting how during this week “colourful images from the parade saturate the internet, magazines and newspapers,” the photographer was more interested in how an expansive event such as this actually comes together. After all, Notting Hill – which started back in 1966 – is Europe’s largest street parade, “with an estimated two million people attending the carnival in 2018,” he points out.
Originally instigated to “improve race relations and has since evolved into a celebration of African-Carribean culture that now attracts participants and audience members from a diverse global community,” the parade the day forms around still remains centre stage. This includes “Mas bands” groups of “masqueraders in elaborate themed costumes that dance through the streets, forming an integral part of the Carnival procession,” Buster tells It’s Nice That. “The Carnival further diversified in 1984 with the appearance of the London School of Samba, which gave way to the growing involvement of Brazilian bands,” the photographer and filmmaker continues. “Many of these bands involve their local communities working together throughout the year to produce costumes, dance choreography and music – blending traditional styles with modern themes and ideas.”
It’s these groups and the work they plan and perform which Buster zooms in upon in The Parade to Notting Hill, both in his photographs and subsequent film. There is immediate joy in the images Buster has taken of these costumes fully formed, but it’s the behind-the-scenes quality which he portrays that is really eye-opening. By using the bands and dancers as a starting point, the photographer’s eye allows us to see a community working together through “vibrant, imaginative costumes and energetic dance routines, juxtaposed with day-to-day clothing in faded communities centres.”
In turn, Buster’s film and photographs, with their hue of bustling busyness and care, portray the creativity that goes into making carnival happen, while also “shedding light on the challenges faced and the struggle for funding and support,” too. It’s an expansive series full of layers of voices and communities coming together, just like the event itself.
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