John Goto
Lovers’ Rock


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A new book of portraits published by Autograph ABP, with commissioned texts by Paul Gilroy, John Goto, Mark Sealy, and Baroness Lola Young

Lovers' Rock is a series of portraits created in Lewisham, South London in 1977. At the time, John Goto taught evening classes in photography and film for two years at Lewisham Youth Centre, where this series was taken. Since then, the negatives have lain dormant in his studio. 

The unselfconscious engagement of the subjects in front of the camera can be, in part, explained by their familiarity with the photographer, who was not much older than the sitters. The Series is entitled Lovers Rock after a musical sub-genre that grew out of the South London reggae scene in the mid-1970s. In 1975, the singer Louisa Mark cut the first Lovers Rock hit with ‘Caught You in a Lie’.

1977 was the year that the two sevens clashed. That summer, as the seventh day of the seventh month approached, London’s hatches were being battened down for more than a mere reprise of the previous year’s rioting.Gregory Isaacs’ heavy, Upsetter-produced anthem ‘Mr. Cop’ sat at number one in the Reggae chart just above Denis Alcapone’s exhortatory toast ‘Brixton Hall’. (...) Denis’ echo-laden, opening lyric, ‘I am standing ten feet tall in a Brixton hall, with my back against the wall, but I ain’t gonna fall yaaaaaah’, captured all the edgy violence of the profound moment of realignment that is registered so beautifully in John Goto’s extraordinary portraits of young South Londoners readied for a night out... After 35 years, Goto’s portraits have acquired special gravity. They are powerful and important for the explicit challenge they present to the rules of racial interpretation.
- Paul Gilroy, There is Love in the Heart of the City

Goto's wonderfully engaging portraits offer an important counter narrative to the dominant image of black youth in south London during the mid 70s, which constantly framed them as wildly delinquent. These photographs literally turn the table on that myth.
- Mark Sealy MBE, Director of Autograph ABP

Texts by

  • Published by Autograph ABP, 2013
  • 120 pages
  • 232mm x 220mm
  • 45 black and white images printed CMYK
  • 200gsm high quality matt paper
  • Hard back with foiled cover
  • Printed dust jackst
  • Colour end papers
  • ISBN 978-899282-16-6