Black History Month
February is Black History Month, a tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity and fight for equality. This month we’re paying homage to photographers paving the way, and continue to impact change through their lenses.
We’ll be highlighting African American photographers who have opened the world’s eye to the daily life and fight that every day Black Americans live.
Gordon Parks (@gordonparksfoundation), one of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century, was a humanitarian with a deep commitment to social justice. He left behind an exceptional body of work that documents American life and culture from the early 1940s into the 2000s, with a focus on race relations, poverty, civil rights, and urban life. His pictures allowed him to break the color line in professional photography while he created remarkably expressive images that consistently explored the social and economic impact of poverty, racism, and other forms of discrimination.
Moneta Sleet Jr., captured many of the images that defined the struggle for racial equality in the United States and was a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer for his involvement in the Civil Rights movement. Sleet worked for multiple African American publications over the course of his career. One of Sleet’s many assignments was to cover Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Sleet reported on the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, King’s acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965, and was given access to the King family at home. Sleet and King formed a bond that lasted until King’s death in 1968. Following the assassination of Dr. King, Sleet photographed King’s funeral on April 9h, 1968 at Atlanta, Georgia’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. The following year, Sleet’s image of the grieving Coretta Scott King won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. This made Sleet the first black man to receive a Pulitzer Prize in any field and the first person to win an award while working for a black publication, Ebony.
Carrie Mae Weems @carriemaeweems (b. 1953 Portland, OR; lives and works in Syracuse, NY) is widely renowned as one of the most influential contemporary American artists living today. Over the course of nearly four decades, Weems has developed a complex body of work employing text, fabric, audio, digital images, installation, and video, but she is most celebrated as a photographer. Activism is central to Weems’ practice, which investigates race, family relationships, cultural identity, sexism, class, political systems, and the consequences of power. Over the last 30 years of her prolific career, Weems has been consistently ahead of her time and an ongoing presence in contemporary culture.
Her work is organized into cohesive bodies that function like chapters in a perpetually unfolding narrative, demonstrating her gift as a storyteller. Through her work, Weems tackles a number of complex contemporary issues, demanding reconsideration of predominant narratives throughout our history.
Kamal X (@iamkamalx) is a professional photographer that has been documenting his travels throughout the world since 2015.
“Photography found me at a time in my life where I felt confused and voiceless. I wasn’t sure of where I was internally and what direction I wanted my life to go. I welcomed my challenges and I found myself drawn to creating images that evoke emotions rooted in the many universal elements of the human experience. My goal is to tell stories from all walks of life and give a raw voice to the world we live in, through compassion and honesty.”- Kamal X
“This image was captured in last summer in Washington, DC during the march for the Anniversary of MLK’s I HAVE A DREAM Speech. This image brings me joy because in my eyes it truly represents what I felt like as I marched along side so many in efforts to bring forth change in this country. We all shared rage, we all shared pain, but no matter how challenging the reality, we all stayed rooted in love and grace.”
An earlier video work, Chasing Pink, Found Red, combines images of Black youths relaxing amongst a lush picnic scene contrasted by crowdsourced narratives of small daily traumas of Black life recorded by Mitchell’s friends, family, and social media followers.
Gwen Norton @gwennortonphoto, after a 28 year career in banking and finance, Gwen Norton began studying photography at the International Center for Photography with several renowned fine art photographers. She draws inspiration for her work from her international travels, as well as places close to home, engaging with the world with curiosity and passion. Her photography focuses on varied environments which stir unexpected emotions. Norton tries to capture isolation, silence, estrangement, mystery and loneliness. She hopes the viewer will want to exist in the photo or to feel like they are looking into a memory.
In November 2019, Gwen was in a two person exhibition showcasing stark and lonely landscapes from the Bolivian High Desert. The exhibition was accompanied by a Limited Edition Artist Book “The Road to Potosí”.