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Intrigued, Connell tried to find out more about Mendelsohn, eventually tracking down one of her contemporaries.

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What made the pictures so exciting, he says, is that they caught the area at a time of transition. A young black man is in the centre, flanked by two mini-skirted white women, their hair piled into elaborate coils and curls.

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Homa Khaleeli. You can see why she thought it was a fascinating mix.

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Mendelsohn plays with this idea in some pictures, photographing Kathleen sitting in her bedroom window, only her bare legs visible behind the curtain. Mon 11 Jan Tin baths, beehives and brothels: life on 'the wickedest road in Britain' — in pictures. In other shots, white, black and Asian children with dirt-smeared faces pull bricks out of crumbling walls, or gather cheerfully in front of rundown homes.

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Reuse this content. Varna Road caused moral panic in s Britain. Their intimacy and power come from their settings: many are taken in pubs, laundries, homes or places such as the Kashmir coffee bar, which was adorned with Bollywood murals.

Varna Road was in Balsall Heathwhich is where Connell himself grew up, his parents having met at the cultural studies centre. In another, a man in a turban and smart suit smiles and adjusts his tie below a huge advertising hoarding showing a woman in sunglasses sipping lemonade. Today, Balsall Heath is a largely Asian area, its streets reclaimed from vice in the s, following a campaign of protests and picketing by the local community. In one, a trio of young people pose on a night out, caught somewhere between pouting and laughing.

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Mendelsohn, from Boston, arrived there to do an MA in and had soon had some photographs published in a student magazine, alongside interviews with Kathleen, her mother, a pimp and a boyfriend. It encapsulates everything cultural studies was about at the time: mass media, inner-city areas, class, gender, race. But back then, prostitution was so rife that Birmingham politicians were debating the idea of state-run brothels.

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Kathleen and Salim are both pseudonyms used by Mendelsohn. You can just imagine Mendelsohn coming into Birmingham and Balsall Heath.

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The life of this young mother of two, who worked as a prostitute, is documented in all its complexity. It was a once-in-a-lifetime discovery. Unlike many photographs documenting social deprivation and slum clearances, her shots are not just street scenes.

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So it looked to its colonies to provide cheap labour. Although Connell has spoken to Mendelsohn, because of a serious illness she is unable to remember much about the photographs, though was delighted to hear about the exhibition.

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To have somewhere called the Kashmir showed the immigrant community was asserting itself. Mendelsohn, a young Harvard graduate, set out to capture the truth about the lives not just of the women working in prostitution in Birminghambut also the poverty of its slums, as well as the new communities being formed by immigrants recently arrived from South Asia and the Caribbean.

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The photographs, which have gone largely unseen for almost half a century, were found by social historian Kieran Connellwho was creating an archive to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies — the birthplace of cultural studies. Another catches her peering out beside her toddler daughter. Behind, the scraped-off paint on an old wall frames them with what look like angel wings.

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This, says Connell, provided new arrivals with somewhere they felt safe.