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Mark Sealy

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Mark Sealy
Born1960 (age 63–64)
Hackney, London, England
Alma materGoldsmiths, University of London
Occupation(s)Curator and cultural historian
AwardsHood Medal (2005)
Award for Outstanding Service to Photography (2019)

Mark Sealy OBE (born 1960) is a British curator and cultural historian with a special interest in the relationship of photography to social change, identity politics and human rights.[1][2] In 1991 he became the director of Autograph ABP, the Association of Black Photographers,[3][4] based since 2007 at Rivington Place, a purpose-built international visual arts centre in Shoreditch, London. He has curated several major international exhibitions and is also a lecturer.



Born in 1960 in Hackney, London (to a father from Barbados and an English mother),[5] and raised in Newcastle,[6] Mark Sealy studied at Goldsmiths, University of London, after which he worked on national newspapers in Fleet Street.[7]

As the Director of Autograph ABP (the Association of Black Photographers) since 1991, he has been responsible for initiating and delivering many exhibitions, residency projects and publications, as well as commissioning photographers and filmmakers.[2] A recent commissioned project (2013–14) was The Unfinished Conversation, by award-winning documentary-maker John Akomfrah, a film-work on the political life of cultural theorist Stuart Hall.[8]

Sealy has been a guest lecturer at the Royal College of Art and many other institutions in England and abroad,[9][10] and has participated in many national and international conferences, including on the "Historical Perspectives on International Curatorial Debates of the 1980s and 1990s" panel at the Shades of Black conference, Duke University (Durham, North Carolina), in April 2001,[11] the 2011 symposium on "post-racial imaginaries" held at the University of Westminster by the journal darkmatter,[12] "Reframing the Moment: Legacies of the 1982 Blk Art Group" (curated by Sonia Boyce and Keith Piper) in 2012 at Wolverhampton Polytechnic,[13] and has been on judging juries for such prestigious awards as the World Press Photo competition.[7]

In 2007, the Royal Photographic Society awarded Sealy the Hood Medal for services to photography.[14] In 2019, he was given the Award for Outstanding Service to Photography (and Honorary Fellowship), Royal Photographic Society.[15]

His work as a curator includes an audiovisual programme for Rencontres d'Arles in 1993, and Human Rights Human Wrongs – an exhibition featuring images selected from the Black Star collection of 20th-century photojournalism[5] – at the Ryerson Image Centre, Toronto (23 January–14 April 2013),[2] and at the Photographers' Gallery, London (6 February–6 April 2015).[16] Among many initiatives at Rivington Place, he co-curated with Renée Mussai (archivist and head of research at Autograph) the critically acclaimed Black Chronicles II, first shown in 2014,[17] a solo retrospective of the work of Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955–1989) marking the 25th anniversary of his death,[18] and in 2015, researched and curated an exhibition to mark the 70th anniversary of the Fifth Pan-African Congress in 1945, featuring photographs by John Deakin exhibited for the first time.[19][20] Sealy curated the 18th FotoFest Biennial (8 March–19 April 2020), Houston's city-wide annual photography festival, marking the first time that the event has focused its attention on the continent and its diaspora. 'The history of visual culture and making images is being investigated, torn apart, blown up in the air, and made new,' Sealy has explained, citing this exhibition as playing a part in this process.[21]

Sealy completed a PhD at Durham University, where his research focused on photography and cultural violence.[22] He previously earned a taught MA in Photographic Image from the same institution.[23]

Sealy was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to photography[24][25] and Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2022 New Year Honours for services to art.[26][27]


  • Vanley Burke: a Retrospective. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1993. Edited by Sealy. With a preface by Stuart Hall .
  • Different: A Historical Context: Contemporary Photographers and Black Identity. Phaidon, 2001. With Stuart Hall. An examination of identity through photography.
  • Rotimi Fani-Kayode & Alex Hirst – Photographs. London: Autograph, 1996. Co-edited by Sealy.
  • Decolonising the Camera: Photography in Racial Time. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 2019. ISBN 978-1912064755.
  • Photography: Race, Rights and Representation. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 2022. ISBN 9781913546335.


  1. ^ "Mark Sealy", Commissaires. Arles.
  2. ^ a b c "Human Rights Human Wrongs", Ryerson Image Centre.
  3. ^ "Who We Are", Autograph ABP.
  4. ^ Mark Sealy biography, Africultures.
  5. ^ a b Martin Knelman, "Human Rights, Human Wrongs at Ryerson Image Centre", Toronto Star, 25 January 2013.
  6. ^ Tom Seymour, "Human Rights Human Wrongs", British Journal of Photography, 18 February 2015.
  7. ^ a b Alison Donnell, "Mark Sealy", Companion to Contemporary Black British Culture, Routledge, 2002, p. 274.
  8. ^ "John Akomfrah: The Unfinished Conversation" at Autograph.
  9. ^ "Talk: 'The Historical Conditions of Existence – Mark Sealy MBE on Stuart Hall and the Photographic Moment'"[permanent dead link], Weltkulturen Museum / Weltkulturen Labor, Frankfurt a. M., Germany. C&, 5 June 2014.
  10. ^ "Art & Compromise (III) — Mark Sealy: The Organ that Weeps", Beaconsfield in collaboration with City & Guilds of London Art School.
  11. ^ "Mark Sealy MBE", Diaspora Artists.
  12. ^ "Westminster hosts darkmatter symposium" Archived 8 December 2015 at the Wayback Machine, University of Westminster, 16 May 2011.
  13. ^ "Reframing the Moment: Legacies of the 1982 Blk Art Group" (Delegate Pack), 27 October 2012.
  14. ^ Mark Sealy biography Archived 25 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Autograph ABP.
  15. ^ Outstanding Service award, Royal Photographic Society.
  16. ^ "Human Rights Human Wrongs" Archived 2 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine, The Photographers' Gallery.
  17. ^ Charlotte Runcie, "Black Chronicles II, Rivington Place, Review: 'powerful'. A tantalising new exhibition seeks to redress the absence of black people from the history of photography", The Telegraph, 18 September 2014.
  18. ^ "Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955–1989)", Autograph.
  19. ^ "The Fifth Pan-African Congress", Autograph ABP.
  20. ^ Brennavan Sritharan, "The Manchester town hall meeting that shaped Africa: remembering the Fifth Pan-African Congress", The British Journal of Photography, 27 July 2015.
  21. ^ Das, Jareh (6 March 2020). "Mark Sealy: African Cosmologies at FotoFest Biennial 2020". Ocula.
  22. ^ "Judges – BJP IPA 2018". www.bjpipa.com. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  23. ^ "Mark Sealy awarded MBE for services to Photography - Durham University". www.dur.ac.uk. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  24. ^ "Mark Sealy awarded MBE for services to Photography" Archived 25 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine, School of Modern Languages & Cultures, Durham University, 21 January 2013.
  25. ^ "New Year Honours 2013: full list of recipients", The Daily Telegraph, 29 December 2012.
  26. ^ "No. 63571". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 January 2022. p. N15.
  27. ^ Hughes, David (31 December 2021). "New Year's Honours list 2022 in full: Everyone who received an MBE, OBE, CBE, knighthood and damehood". i. Retrieved 1 January 2022.