Tim Smith’s sensitive documentation of Britain’s Asian subculture serves not only as an exploratory tool into the inner workings of Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani life in this country, but also lends flashlit insight into how, as a nation, we function as a multicultural society. Showcasing the roles that the Asian community fills, Smith’s images provide quiet celebration of the transition from migratory workforce to vital presence.
As much as this transition has not been simple or without discrepancy, the subdued tone and intuitive format of this publication perhaps hints at how a faction of society can so successfully install itself as a very necessary vertebra in a country’s backbone.
Despite Smith’s preference for revealing individual distinctiveness there remains a strong sense of the binding power of community. This, combined with Naseem Khan’s accompanying text, provides a gentle overview of a perpetually diversifying world, where values often collide and identities change but where ideology is seldom shifting.
A criticism, as needs must, is that the printed project is entirely black and white. The Asian community is one of colour: in its appearance, in its diet, in its rich cultural heritage. I fail to understand why conveyance of this has been compromised by an insistence on the monochromatic.
Nonetheless, this book is a testament to Asian success in Britain and moreover the UK’s success in cultural diversity.
Smith’s exploration finds the Anglo-Indian wedding in Cumbria and the snow-capped Mosques of Bradford, the Glasgow-stani judge and Manchester’s “Curry Mile”, all in perfect harmony. And that is never an easy thing in those cities.