ART NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY

How a Group of Black Photographers in Harlem Decided to Build Their Own Art Ecosystem

Kamoinge was fused from two groups of Black photographers at a joint meeting in 1963. Among the inaugural members were Albert Fennar, Herb Randall, Shawn Walker, and Louis Draper, all working photographers who, as Draper himself put it, were “well acquainted with the barriers which prevented Black photographers a voice within the usual communication.”

The goal was to produce their own portfolios and open a gallery outside the mainstream as an outlet for their work. But despite the obstacles of operating outside the established system, the group’s outlook was optimistic.

“With all the untapped talent amidst [the group’s members], there was no reason why it should not be developed and expressed,” Draper recalled. “Thus it is valid to state that the Kamoinge Workshop, while operating within an arena of negation, was primarily forged in an atmosphere of hope and not despair.”

“To me, this photograph captures the energy and spirit of the group as a whole, but also gives you a glimpse into their individual personalities and styles,” says curator Carrie Springer, who helped organize an exhibition about the work and legacy of the Kamoinge Workshop on view at the Whitney Museum now.

The show, titled “Working Together,” includes around 140 pictures by the group’s members taken throughout the 1960s and ’70s as they staked a claim for photography in the flowering Black Arts Movement.

Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop” is on view through March 28, 2021, at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Image : Anthony Barboza, Kamoinge Members (1973). Courtesy of the Whitney Museum of Art. © Anthony Barboza.

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