African American Large Format Photographers : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Does anyone know of contemporary African American large format photographers? I have a deep appreciation for the originality, sensitivity, expression and emotion often conveyed by African American’s, regardless of their art form.

Thank you,

-- Jim Jones (, March 10, 2002


Ron Tarver, Philadelphia. He's a staff photographer for the Phila Inquirer, but his personal work is 4x5, uses Type 55 Polaroid film and a printing technique which softens the image. He received a 2001 Pew Fellowship. He has some lovely pictures of Havana, and urban landscapes around Philadelphia.

I think Don Camp (also Philadelphia) uses LF for his huge portraits, but I'm not entirely sure.

-- Sandy Sorlien (, March 10, 2002.

There is a photographer who sat beside Ansel Adams of the Board of the Ziff Davis Foundation, who is just as comfortable with an 8x10 Sinar as he is with a Leica, Linhof or Hasselblad. Who is involved in the building of of a LF camera, and whose whose published work, especially in the early part of his career, is mostly done with large format.

He will remain nameless because he rejects being identified as a Large format or Afro American, photographer, since both are incidental to his work. At one point he did accept an award from Langston Hughes,(see: "Sweet Flypaper of Life" words by Langston Hughes, photographs by Roy De Carrava), and that resulted in his being identified as a prolific Afro American Photographer. The huge numbers of published images were a result of the many TV guide covers he had done. None of these photgraphs were remotely related to the reason he was offered the award, so he somewhat ungratiously, declined the award as being based on the absurd and that TV guide was not a measure of anything he wished to be known for....

-- Fred De Van (, March 10, 2002.

>>> "I have a deep appreciation for the originality, sensitivity, expression and emotion often conveyed by African American’s, regardless of their art form." <<<

How about: "I have a deep appreciation for the originality, sensitivity, expression and emotion often conveyed by Artists, regardless of the melanin level in their skin."

Best wishes,

-- Mark Parsons (, March 10, 2002.

Try checking out this site. They have a very interesting time line outlining the history of photography from a Black perspective. African American Photographers' Association

BTW if anyone is interested in Native American LF photographers I could supply you with a short list. I Mohawk so thats one.

-- Martin (, March 10, 2002.

I happen to be one. My web site is

Amadou Diallo

-- amadou diallo (, March 10, 2002.

I know of one or two in the Houston area.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, March 10, 2002.

One of whom works closely with John Biggars (sp?) the wonderful & powerful muralist

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, March 10, 2002.

I just wanted to say thank you to Sandy for the information on Ron Tarver. His images of Havana are great! Fred thanks to you for the fascinating information on the gentleman who was on the Ziff Davis Foundation board. Martin thanks for bringing the African American Photographers' Association to my attention, I will be checking out their site. Amadou my man! I was able to take a quick peek at your site today and will be back soon. Nice work and nice site! I'll shoot you an email... Ellis, thank you sir for bringing John Biggars to my attention, I'll see if I can find a site that has some of his work.


-- Jim (, March 10, 2002.

How about Irish American large format photographer? What kind of feelings or images that are different from all others do they take? Or maybe Mexican Americans, or Salvadoran Americans, or Samoan Americans? Is each small subgroup given a special type of image & feeling that shows in their artwork or are you assigning this to them due to your own feelings?

-- Dan Smith (, March 10, 2002.

Oh cut it out with the "we're all the same" refrain. I didn't see anyone complaining when someone asked for examples of female LF photographers. Don't judge Jim for asking the question; you don't know why he asked it, other than he would like to see some work by black photographers. I think we should all like to see MORE work by MORE black and female photographers and any other "group" that has been severely under-represented for the first 150 years of photography.

I think it is very worthwhile to consider and examine the possibility that sometimes different cultures and different historical experiences and different hormones, for that matter, might produce different work from the work of the "group" that has always been in power in this country.

If that turns out not to be the case for any given individual, you will still have seen some work from someone you may not have known about before, because they were not part of the "system."

-- Sandy Sorlien (, March 11, 2002.

I don't know what format he worked in, but you can't overlook Gordon Parks. The show that has been floating around the country over the past few years was astounding.

-- Donald Brewster (, March 11, 2002.

Jim, There was a exhibit about a year ago at the Brooklyn Musuem of Art- "Committed to the Image: Contempoary Black Photographers". I'm not sure if any of the artists featured worked exclusively in Large Format but I'm sure you could probably get some information from the book that accompanied the show (same name as the show).

-- David Louis (, March 11, 2002.


In Many ways you are very correct, and your point was the reason for my prior post. Jim's post raises a thorny issue for the Photographer who happens to be Black, as opposed the the Photographer whose focus is on a stereotyped (unfortunately) segment of the Black experiance. You have, we all have, seen quite a bit of work by Black Photographers yet there were no reasons to identify them as Black, they are simply and purely, Photographers. To have done so would have been rediculous, since the content made that moot. It would be emminently crazy to identify a bucolic, snow scene, of a red barn in Vermont made by a Black Photographer as having anything to do with skin color. Likewise, A portrait of the King of Spain, yet I can assure you both have been done by Photographers of color.

Once you say that you cannot ignore Gordon Parks, you create the real cause than many very prolific photographers do not wish to be identified as a Black Photographer. It closes doors. As Donald's post points out, Gordon is know for his photography hyphenated by his color. When the next equally hyphenated person comes along he finds the door to access a bit less open, because there had been a Gordon Parks show a few months ago. Been there, done that.

While is wonderful to be recognised, for the artist/generalist photographer, the lable and the hyphen can and does work against you. For the Photographer who's work is derived from an immersion in a sub culture, the hyphen is more than valid. There are far more hard working, productive, creative, professional Photographers and Artists (who may or may not be commercial in any way) who happen to have dark skin producing images that you see everyday, than will ever be widely known. The work is what matters. The photo editor of Horticulture Magazine was a Black Female. In what way could this fact have effected the content of what you saw? Her/my Friend, Mel Scott was the Picture Editor at Life Magazine, and neither had any exposure to the world that Gordon Parks knew and photographed.

It is not a matter of "we are all the same", it is a matter, that about 85% of the time etnicity, is not a valid distinction. For the other 15%, I am on your side. Do we call Dorthia Lange a "poor Photographer", she personally was far from poor. You would have been struck hard on the head, had you ever called Margaret Burke White, a "White Female shooter of big Dams and little Indians". Do we call Walker Evans a caustic-surly-drunk-artist? (When you did he smiled and growled, simultaniously) Roy De Carrava, who did that wonderful book on a period in Harlem, also is a full Professor in NY, and was the Dirctor of Photography at one of the Time Inc Magazines. Gordon Parks on the other hand, is a Black Photographer, Black Film Director, Black Composer and Black Author, and that is how he wants it. It has made him a wealthy man. To each his own.

There are 35 million Black people in this nation, and there are 35 million ways to be Black. One size does not fit all. This entire topic is a wonderful illustration as to how this nation has continued to get it all wrong. That is also the reason your post was very right.

-- Fred De Van (, March 11, 2002.

Here here, Fred! I agree. If you create great work, I want to see it, if its crap I don't--what difference should it make as to what color/ sex the artist is?

-- mark lindsey (, March 11, 2002.

Fred has some good points, especially the one that being identified black/Latino/female/whatever can be a drawback when exhibitions are scheduled. But more often these days it's an advantage, as an implicit or explicit "affirmative action of the arts" has been taking place in many institutions. I'm all for that.

I suppose there are many viewers of photography like Mark who do not care anything about the person who made the picture. I am not one of them. I believe that if you read about the photographer or hear her lecture about her work or know something about her homeland or culture, you can learn a lot more about photography and about the image itself. If you apprehend a picture in a vacuum, your experience of it is limited.

The magazine Aperture occasionally publishes entire issues of photographs by people of one country or culture. I have in my collection such titles as: "Haiti: Feeding the Spirit," "British Photography: Towards a Bigger Picture," "Ireland: A Troubled Mirror," "Immagini Italiane," "Strong Hearts: Native American Visions and Voices," and many others about specific cultures. While there is tremendous range and variety within each issue, it is fascinating to see a collective portrait of a place or culture arise from seeing them all together. It's a different experience from seeing each artist's work individually, certainly much richer than seeing his work out of context entirely, without knowing anything about him.

Personally, I am proud to have participated in group shows for women only, as well as shows by Philadelphians only or Pennsylvanians only. But because my work is about place, it is more important for me to identify my hometown in my artist's statements than it is for me to identify as female. (I'm not hiding anything, but my name is neutral.) If any individual does not think it's important to identify with a larger group, I have no problem with their decision to minimize that association. Nevertheless, critics, teachers, and historians will inevitably discuss that work in a larger context; after all, that's their job.

-- Sandy Sorlien (, March 12, 2002.

Sandy, I never said that I didn't care anything about the person who made the photograph. I simply said that the color of their skin makes no difference whatsoever.

color doesn't indicate life experiences. It seems to me that your opinion is based on very stereotypical views.

"affirmative action of the arts" what a horrible concept.

Of course I'm sure that your responses would have been identical if the original question stated that he was looking only for "white male" photographers only! :)

-- mark lindsey (, March 12, 2002.

Hi Mark, The implication of your last line is correct; if he had been looking for white male photographers I would have just ignored the post, thinking it was stupid, because probably 85% of photographers (and 95% of LF photographers) represented in museum collections, books, and magazines are white males. (This is my estimation based on 25 years in the field and casual observation of the content of photo mags -- anyone have actual statistics?)

You said you didn't care what color/sex someone is, yet you also say you are interested in the person who took the picture. It doesn't sound like you realize how much color/sex is an essential part of what makes that person who s/he is. (As a person and a photographer.)

We'll just have to disagree on affirmative action. I'm for it, because young people of color and young women need role models in positions of power and respect in order for the inequities of the past 400 years to be addressed. Young artists of color and young women artists need the same in their field. My female photography students are dying for some mentors.


-- Sandy Sorlien (, March 13, 2002.

Sandy wrote: "young people of color and young women need role models in positions of power and respect in order for the inequities of the past 400 years to be addressed".

The continual dividing of people based on color is a waste of time. To have shows celebrating diversity, culture or interest is fine. To have them based on skin color is asinine.

There is only one race, the human race. People everywhere photograph an in any area populated by a specific color you will find the majority of images in that area created by those people. Take good images & promote them & you should do fine and the color or sex of the photographer should not make any difference. I know for some it will, that won't change as there are always some jackasses around. I think most who look at fine images like the images no matter who created them and the experience can only be enhanced by knowing something about the artist. Whether Parks, Weston or Bourke-White, the images speak to us because they are excellent not because we choose to emphasize color, sex, religion, nationality or any other division. (even LF, 35mm or pixelographs) Like the individual or not, for whatever reason. There has to be more to attract you to their work than artificial dividing lines. As long as we have shows that emphasize divisions we will encourage the attitude of acceptance based on the divisions. The photographic image is what I see and hope to celebrate it no matter who photographed it.

-- Dan Smith (, March 13, 2002.

Dan, Fred and others who seem to have a difficult time with this... I sense a great deal of anger and frustration on your behalf. You are obviously having a very difficult time trying o rationalize and justify your reasoning on what has turned into a race issue. I suggest you go back and read my original post. I posed this question "Does anyone know of contemporary African American large format photographers? I have a deep appreciation for the originality, sensitivity, expression and emotion often conveyed by African American’s, regardless of the art form"

Now, if I had asked if you felt (taking cultures into consideration) African American photographers were any different, produced a different style of work, or were denied access to opportunities as compared to White or Chinese American photographers, then maybe you could have gone off in the direction you did. But I did not. One individual, who identifies himself as “Polar” attempted to correct me and tell me how to rephrase the question. Well, at 50 years of age, I don’t need Polar’s help in asking questions. I am quite able to think and reason for myself. Unfortunately and sadly, race still matters in America. All to often an individual’s character and abilities are secondary to ones ethnicity, or even gender for that matter. Still more, in their own warped sense of security continue to seek, or are receptive to the negative stereotypes of people from other cultures, lifestyles or backgrounds only to reinforce a limited ability to truly open their eyes and emotions to what is around them, let alone think for themselves. Again, I want to thank everyone for responding to my question.



-- Jim (, March 13, 2002.

For anyone interested, I came across a wonderful site called The "Chicago Alliance of African-American Photographers" Their journey project, in which they document the Chicago African American community is the highlight!

They even received recognition on Kodaks website as well html in which they bring to light "the journey project"



-- Jim (, March 14, 2002.

"Our cultural revolution must be the means of bringing us closer to our African brothers and sisters. It must begin in the community and be based on community participation. Afro-American will be free to create only when they can depend on the Afro-American community for support and Afro-American artists must realize that they depend on the Afro-Americans for inspiration."

- Malcolm X

-- Larry Smith (, March 15, 2002.

good thing Malcom x was moving away from such racist statements towards the end of his life.

-- mark lindsey (, March 15, 2002.

'Cultural revolution',....'community',....'community participation',......'support',....'inspiration', there is nothing in the above statement that says anything about racism, refers to racism, encourages racism.

It may be a bit 'enthnocentric' for your tastes, but I think we've established that by now.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, March 15, 2002.

its amazing how blind you are....

Depend on the afro american community......

depend on afro americans for inspiration...

your a blind fool, and thats been established also..

-- mark lindsey (, March 16, 2002.

There is nothing blind or foolish about one African American depending on other African Americans, there is nothing blind or foolish about one African American getting inspiration from another, we all share a pride within our community regardless of who and what and where we are.

I made no personal attack whatsoever in the above response and was polite as I could be for three reasons. First, I'm sure that the moderator of this forum will see the response you have just made as a personal attack and remove it. Second, I will no longer make any personal references in my responses to these kinds of statements because I think they're important enough to remain in this forum instead of being deleted.

Thirdly, it's time for me to rise above the situation, with hopefully class and dignity.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, March 16, 2002.

One clarification.....Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Ralph Ellison, Charles White, Alexander Dumas, all these people and more inspired not only people of the same ethnic background but everyone.

Currently he fastest computer system on earth was designed by a Black man from Africa, Elijah McCoy(of the real McCoy fame) invented the forerunner of the lubrication systems for modern engines.

There is a wealth of information like this on sites like 'the patent cafe', just type in Black Inventors, and the list goes on, inspirational not only to the African Community but to everyone.

African Americans take pride in their community, in education, and look to inspiration to further themselves. No one can tarnish that concept.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, March 16, 2002.


Well said... Thank you

To everyone else who has shared in this, I want to say thank you. It takes a lot for many of us to open up and share our inner most feelings with others, whether they are perceived as good, bad, wrong or right. What is confirmed however, is that although there have been many accomplishments and strides in the area of race relations in this country; we still have a long ways to go. Keeping an open mind, listening and being receptive to others and fostering a HEALTHY exchange of ideas and communication is paramount if we are to succeed. Building bridges takes effort and strength. Tearing them down takes ignorance and hate. The attacks I have witnessed here are not new to me. They are real, and quite honestly I expected them. Some even felt it was necessary to send personal attacks directly to me via email. But as always I turn these negatives into positives and continue to fight even harder for what I believe in. I accept the fact that there are many frightened individuals who have a difficult time dealing with most any type of change or acceptance. They continue to live in their safe and enclosed little imaginary worlds… and yet call themselves “creative” when they lack the ability to think or reason for themselves. “God grants me the SERINITY to accept the things I cannot change; COURAGE to change the things I can and WISDOM to know the difference”

Time for me to go out and take some pictures :)

-- Jim (, March 16, 2002.

no, you attacked me earlier in other posts,whats the difference?

you continue to infer that in some way I am racist, nonsense, I simply point out stupidity when I see it.

what do the great accomplisments of these people have to do with me or the conversation? oh yes, its because you choose believe I am racist and that in some way I am the problem here, just claiming me to be racist certainly takes away any responsibility on your part doesn't it?---I'm right and he is wrong, because he is racist!

Jim please cut the drama, I know all this uplifting talk makes you feel superior, but you nor anyone else on this forum is the spokesperson for your race,I'm sure many agree with your view, but there are many blacks who strongly disagree with you, but I guess you would call them sellouts---how sad.

-- mark lindsey (, March 16, 2002.

Dear Jim and Jonathan

Thank you for rising above the situation. Please do not dignify the outbursts of a puerile mind with a response.

-- Erik X (, March 16, 2002.

The difference is that you are the only one now continuing to make personal attacks, and this is your second one.

'depend on afro americans for inspiration...', this is a reference you made in your statement, and I simply state specific individuals who happen to be African Americans who inspire not only other African Americans, but everybody as well, that's what is has to do with the conversation.

As I have said in an earlier post, I will no longer comment on your personally, as to an opinion of whatever you are, I leave that to everyone reading this post to make their own judgement.

Jim in no way, shape, or form, sounded, suggested, or implied that he was superior. The 'spokeperson' statement need no further comment.

'but there are many blacks who strongly disagree with you, but I guess you would call them sellouts---how sad.....This statement by you is I suggest a non-issue, I have no problem with anyone who would disagree, including other African Americans.

The suggestion that Jim would accuse other African Americans who would disagree as being 'sellouts', I'm sure is a statement that can be judged on it's face by all viewing this post.

I have said and will honor my promise not to attack you personally, therefore whatever my responsibility is has ended.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, March 16, 2002.

Thank you Erik, I responded before you thread showed up, but in the spirit of ending this, I have made my last comment.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, March 16, 2002.

ah yes the two of you being the first to attack, claiming my being a racist and now you are both above it all, how hypocritical.....yawn.

-- mark lindsey (, March 16, 2002.

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