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Black History Month

February 26, 2021

Exhibition

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.⁠⁠
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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.⁠

Gordon Parks. Segregation in the South Department Store. Mobile. Alabama. 1956 ©Gordon Parks Foundation
Gordon Parks. Harvey Turner and William B. Wilson Weighing Lime. Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania. © Gordon Parks Foundation
Gordon Parks. American Gothic., Washington D.C. and Ella Watson. 1942 ©Gordon Parks Foundation

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.⁠⁠

Coretta Scott King and daughter Bernice at the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Moneta Sleet Jr. © Johnson Publishing Co. Inc
Rosa Parks, Dr. and Mrs. Abernathy, Dr. Ralph Bunche, and Dr. and Mrs. Martin Luther King, Jr. leading marchers into Montgomery. 1965 by Moneta Sleet Jr. © Johnson Publishing Company
King Family by Moneta Sleet Jr. ©Johnson Publishing Company

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.⁠⁠
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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.⁠

Carrie Mae Weems. Blue Black Boy, 1997. ©Carrie Mae Weems. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Kamal X (@iamkamalx) is a professional photographer that has been documenting his travels throughout the world since 2015.⁠⁠
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“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 ⁠⁠
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“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.

Washington, D.C. 2020 March for the Anniversary or MLK's I HAVE A DREAM speech. © Kamal X Photography

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”.⁠

Bolivia. Avaroa Reserve. © Gwen Norton Photography
Bayeté Ross Smith (@bayetekenan) is a photographer, artist, and educator who lives in Harlem, New York. He is a Presidential Leadership Scholar, a TED Resident, a Creative Capital Awardee, an Art For Justice Fund Fellow and a POV NY Times embedded media maker. He is dedicated to exposing and healing economic and social injustice through education, art, and media. Bayeté’s projects and collaboration lists both long and impressive. He has collaborated on various projects such as “Question Bridge: Black Males” an innovative transmedia project that facilitates a dialogue between Black men from diverse and contending backgrounds and creates a platform for them to represent and redefine Black male identity in America. As well as his continued work with the Kings Against Violence Initiative (KAVI), a hospital and school based violence prevention organization in Brooklyn NY that partners with Kings County Hospital.
His work is exhibited in the collections of The Smithsonian Institution, the Oakland Museum of California, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and The Brooklyn Museum. He has also exhibited internationally with the Goethe Institute (Ghana), Foto Museum (Belgium), the Lianzhou Foto Festival (China), and America House in (Ukraine), among others.
Bayete Ross Smith. Our Kind of People. © Bayete Ross Smith Photography
Bayete Ross Smith. Our Kind of People. © Bayete Ross Smith Photography
Our Kind of People is project that examines perception based on appearance and deconstructs how clothing, race, gender, and class signifiers affect our daily interactions and social systems. To do this, Our Kind of People uses images and stories created in collaboration with everyday people from across the globe.
It was created by interdisciplinary artist and educator Bayeté Ross Smith, and co-produced with Fotodemic as an ongoing series of images, videos, and stories that create nuanced and sophisticated conversations and reflections about how identity affects our daily lives. This awareness and analysis will become a tool for challenging bias, facilitating education, and promoting social justice.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Our Kind of People allows everyday people to control the images and stories that define them and share them with people and cultures around the world. Please help us build this living narrative that shows our nuanced and complex selves, challenges biases, and promotes social equity and community. Based on appearance, the perceptions of others are often the basis for discriminatory policies and practices that uphold systemic inequity. Although some assumptions stem from real-world encounters, most develop from the stories we are told and share. Your images and stories are a critical part of this movement for equity and inclusiveness.
Click Here to learn how you can participate: http://www.bayeterosssmith.com/okop/#jointhemovement
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