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Photographer launches exhibit in shopping centre where he was accused of theft

Cephas Williams’ Portrait Of Black Britain is going to Bluewater in Kent, where he was wrongly accused of stealing in June.

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Portrait of Black Britain, seen here in Manchester Arndale, aims to become the largest collection of portraits of black Britons (Jason Lock/Portrait of Black Britain/PA)

Portrait of Black Britain, seen here in Manchester Arndale, aims to become the largest collection of portraits of black Britons (Jason Lock/Portrait of Black Britain/PA)

Portrait of Black Britain, seen here in Manchester Arndale, aims to become the largest collection of portraits of black Britons (Jason Lock/Portrait of Black Britain/PA)

A campaigner and photographer has said it is “symbolic” that he is opening an art display about black British people at the same shopping centre he was once wrongly accused of theft.

In June, Cephas Williams was wrongly accused by security staff in Bluewater of stealing from House of Fraser – an incident for which the owner of the Dartford shopping centre, Landsec, later apologised.

On Monday, the 30-year-old Londoner is launching his photography project, Portrait Of Black Britain, inside the Kent retail outlet with the support of Landsec.

The aim of the project is to create the largest collection of photographic portraits of black people living in the UK and celebrate identity and diversity.

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Cephas Williams said it is ‘symobolic’ that his work is coming to Bluewater (Colin Stout/ Portrait of Black Britain)

Cephas Williams said it is ‘symobolic’ that his work is coming to Bluewater (Colin Stout/ Portrait of Black Britain)

Cephas Williams said it is ‘symobolic’ that his work is coming to Bluewater (Colin Stout/ Portrait of Black Britain)

“I can’t watch the incident in Bluewater back … there’s trauma there,” Mr Williams told the PA news agency.

“When (the security guard) ran up to me and grabbed me from behind I thought somebody was trying to attack me.

“People are conditioned to approach black people with a higher level of aggression in the first instance. Guilty until proven innocent.

“Putting Portrait of Black Britain in that place (Bluewater) is symbolic on so many levels.”

The installation is the second instalment of Mr Williams’ project, having previously featured portraits at the Manchester International Festival in the Arndale shopping centre.

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Portrait of Black Britain came to the Arndal centre in Manchester earlier this year (CPG Media/ Portrait of Black Britain)

Portrait of Black Britain came to the Arndal centre in Manchester earlier this year (CPG Media/ Portrait of Black Britain)

Portrait of Black Britain came to the Arndal centre in Manchester earlier this year (CPG Media/ Portrait of Black Britain)

The new exhibit features portraits of 219 individuals but Mr Williams plans to grow this collection to 1,000 with future exhibitions at different locations across the UK.

“I don’t know if it (racism) will change in my lifetime … while I’m alive I’m going to use my gift and my ability to give something, and what I’m going to give is a body of work that speaks to visibility, that speaks to togetherness, that speaks to the beauty in our diversity,” Mr Williams said.

“(Portrait of Black Britain) introduces the idea that there are so many types of black people that you need to now be informed about, that are not just criminals, and are not just rappers and entertainers, and are not just football players.

“There are millionaires, there are homeowners, there are creatives, there are doctors, there are business people, investors, healthcare practitioners.

“Portrait of Black Britain showcases the humanity in diversity … it’s a historical body of work and it will stand the test of time because it came from a place of empowerment.”

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The art project (CPG Media/Portrait of Black Britain)

The art project (CPG Media/Portrait of Black Britain)

The art project (CPG Media/Portrait of Black Britain)

Mark Allan, chief executive of Landsec, said: “Working with Cephas and his team has given us the opportunity to listen, learn and, importantly, take action.

“Portrait of Black Britain is a celebration of individual lives, to have this second instalment launching at Bluewater is testament to the commitment of our internal teams and the relationships we are building to help drive change.”

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