Vanley Burke (born 1951) is a British Jamaican photographer and artist. His photographs capture experiences of his community's arrival in Britain, the different landscapes and cultures he encountered, the different ways of survival and experiences of the wider African-Caribbean community.
In 2021 he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society.
Burke’s first notable exhibition, Handsworth from the Inside, was held at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, and then the Commonwealth Institute in London in 1983. Since then his work has been exhibited at Light House, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, The Black Arts Gallery in London, Cornerhouse in Manchester and Walsall Museum and Art Gallery, and he has held solo exhibitions abroad in New York City and Mali. In addition to traditional galleries and other such settings, Burke has purposely exhibited his work in locations more easily accessible to black audiences such as community centres, clubs, pubs, churches, pool halls and schools. The 1993 exhibition From Negative Stereotype to Positive Image included his work alongside that of three other Birmingham photographers: Sir Benjamin Stone (1838-1914), Ernest Dyche (1887-1973) and Claudette Holmes (born 1962). He was a significant contributor of imagery to the Birmingham photography magazine and collective, Ten.8.
Burke’s work has also been used in documentaries (including Handsworth Songs, 1986), television programmes, books and on record sleeves such as UB40’s “Jeffrey Morgan”. A biography A Retrospective, on the life and works of Burke, was published by Lawrence & Wishart, edited by Mark Sealy. In 1990 Burke received a call from a friend in South Africa saying: “South Africa is going to be free and we need you here.” During two visits to the country, in 1990 then in 1996, Burke photographed the life of black South Africans just after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and the subsequent ANC celebrations hosted and attended by Mandela for the anti-Apartheid veterans.
The “Vanley Burke Archive” maintained by Birmingham City Council is a constantly growing photographic and documentary community resource. Complementing his photographic documentation, Burke collects material which samples and evidences developments and activities of the black community in Britain. The material comprises things such as posters or flyers and funeral cards that may have been seen as disposable at the time of their creation but take greater significance when maintained in the context of his archive. They evidence and provide insight of the daily activities and everyday lives, cultural and religious beliefs, the arts, political ideals, health and other facets affecting the black community and others in Birmingham and in Britain. Burke is still documenting the black community in the UK and has more recently worked on a number of projects including an exhibition and publication project documenting the Asian community in Birmingham.