‘Take Beautiful Pictures of Our People’


“Shawn Walker was up on 125th Street with Louis Draper and Ray Francis, hanging out and taking pictures. It was the summer of 1964 and the friends, in their 20s, were members of a fledgling photography collective in Harlem called the Kamoinge Workshop. That’s when the celebrated photographer Roy DeCarava walked up. The workshop’s mentor at the time, DeCarava was on assignment that day for Newsweek. Harlem had just experienced riots, after the killing of an unarmed Black man by an off-duty cop. Newsweek’s editors needed an image to suit the angle of their cover story — ‘Harlem: Hatred in the Streets.’ DeCarava delivered a shot of three men looking stern, framed close with set jaws and steely gaze. The picture was staged. It was of Mr. Walker and his friends — bohemians whose Sunday meetings mixed critiques of one another’s photographs with talk of art history and the latest Italian cinema — who were instructed to look angry by DeCarava and the white art director who accompanied him. … Such was the disconnect in the Sixties, when Harlem was buzzing with culture, but its representation suffered from mainstream publications’ appetite for images of poverty and violence, or from obsession with a few newsmakers like Malcolm X, passing over regular life. For the group of African-American photographers who coalesced around 1963 to form Kamoinge, the answer to skewed portrayals of the community and scarce publishing opportunities was to get together, and do better. ‘The reason we came together was to take pictures,’ said Adger Cowans, who arrived in New York in 1960 after studying photography at Ohio University and a stint in the Navy. ‘It was about the actual photographic image, to take beautiful pictures of our people.’ Influential in Black photography circles, Kamoinge is little-known beyond. ‘Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop,’ now at the Whitney Museum after originating at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, is the first museum show focused on the group since the 1970s. …”
NY Times


About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in Black Power, Civil Rights Mov., Harlem, Jazz, Malcolm X, MLKJr., Music, Poverty and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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