The bikini is in decline, announced the British press in the summer of 2016. This factoid was supposedly linked to the rise of a new standard of female beauty set by the leotard-sporting American Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles. But the image of a fit, strong black female body as a standard of beauty is nothing new, as “Raphael Albert: Miss Black & Beautiful,” curated by Renée Mussai, reminded me. Consider Albert’s 1981 portrait Miss Grenada Theresa Hopkins #1, London, one of the few color photographs in the show. It depicts the model with her lips painted red, dressed in a one-piece bathing suit, and posing against a white screen hung against an orange wall: a strong woman with a strong attitude.
Albert, originally from Grenada, immigrated to London in 1953 and started learning photography at Ealing Technical College while working part-time at a cake factory. From there, he
Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.