Armet Francis was born in Jamaica in 1945 where he spent his early childhood in the rural community of St. Elizabeth, one of Jamaica's largest parishes in the southwest of the island. When he was ten years old he left Jamaica for Britain, to join his parents who had migrated to London in 1948.
After leaving school at 14, Francis briefly worked for an engineering firm before taking a job as an assistant in a West End photographic studio. He soon began developing his career as a freelance fashion and advertising photographer at the height of the ‘swinging 60s’, and towards the end of the decade he started to chronicle London’s black communities, politics, and key figures. On how he began to develop the independent documentary practice for which he is best known:
“In 1969 I embarked on a lifetime project... I was living and working in the first world, materially that is, but becoming more aware of inequalities to the third world, to be more specific the Black World. As a Black photographer I started to realise I had no social documentary images in my work.”
Interested in representations of the black Diaspora on a global scale, Francis returned to Jamaica in 1969 and embarked on a cross-cultural project entitled The Black Triangle, photographing black communities in Britain, Africa, and the Caribbean. In 1983 he became the first Black photographer to have a solo exhibition at The Photographers' Gallery with The Black Triangle: People of the African Diaspora. The work was published in a book of the same name the following year; and the sequel Children of the Black Triangle was published by Africa World Press in 1989.
Armet was actively involved in black arts and politics during the 1980s, and he become a co-founder of Autograph ABP in 1988. Francis’ contribution to black British post-war photography was recognised in the Museum of London’s Roots to Reckoning exhibition in 2005, where his work was exhibited, and later acquired, alongside his contemporaries Neil Kenlock and Charlie Phillips. He was the official photographer for Africa 05, a celebration of African arts held throughout 2005 in the UK, and throughout his career commissioned / published by the The Times Magazine, The Sunday Times Supplement, BBC and Channel 4. Armet’s work featured prominently in Staying Power, the collaborative project presented in 2015 by the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Black Cultural Archives. His work is represented in the collections of the Tate, Museum of London, and Victoria & Albert Museum, amongst others.