SEEING BLACK launches fall exhibition centering the photography of Florestine Perrault Collins and other early Black photographers' approaches documenting Black life, self-expression, political struggle, and social achievement through the camera.
First Frame, the preludial exhibition for SEEING BLACK: Black Photography in New Orleans 1840 & Beyond, opens at the New Orleans African American Museum on October 6, 2022, and runs until June 4, 2023.
New Orleans (September 221, 2022) SEEING BLACK announces the fall opening of First Frame, the preludial exhibition for SEEING BLACK: Black Photography in New Orleans 1840 & Beyond, at the New Orleans African American Museum.
SEEING BLACK: Black Photography in New Orleans 1840 & Beyond is a multimedia, research-based project chronicling and celebrating the history, influence, performative aesthetic, and futurity of Black photography in New Orleans. From photography's pre-Civil War beginnings to its twenty-first-century practices, SEEING BLACK engages the intellectual inquiry, cultural histories, political positioning, and innovative versatility of historical and contemporary Black photography.
Organized around a publication, a series of exhibitions spanning multiple sites, a digital platform, an index, and public programming, SEEING BLACK challenges traditional exhibition didactics, conventional object presentations, and historical assumptions of blackness and representation. The project robustly engages a broad body of work from more than eighty historical and contemporary photographers and the themes and vernacular embodied in their images.
"Our oppression has been racialized and genderized to the extent that we do not recognize what's been done to us,” states writer and activist Kalamu ya Salaam, lead organizer of SEEING BLACK. "It's not a matter of centering or bringing women into the focus of the lens, as they have already been shaping the frame and leading the work. It's about changing our understanding of their contributions and mindset about gender."
As a body of work curated through a collaborative and research-led process, SEEING BLACK will present over 200 photographs and artifacts covering a spectrum of narrative styles, compositions, techniques, and approaches, showcasing contemporary art forms and expanding the historical record.
“Much of what we have access to about Black photographers in New Orleans since the 1840s has been erased in the archival record. The fragmented scants of photographic artists like John Roberts, Louis Foucher, Oryana Valentine, Jrende Meyers, and dozens of others I have documented denote a significant community of Black photographers,” states photographer and researcher Girard Mouton,III. “The recorded work of photographers like Arthur Paul Bedou, Florestine Perrault Collins, George Floyd, Villard Paddio, and Arthur Perrault allows us to experience Black life through their techniques and styles.”
First Frame is an immersive installation centering the photography of Florestine Perrault Collin, the first documented Black woman photographer in New Orleans, and early Black photographers’ approaches documenting Black life, self-expression, political struggle, and social achievement through the camera, curated by Shana M. griffin with Kalamu ya Salaam, Eric Waters, and Girard Mouton,III.
“Unintimidated by a field dominated by men and racist depictions of blackness, Collins navigated various forms of racial and gender subjectivities of the early twentieth century and reimagined the confines of imposed patriarchal domesticity to one of possibilities and creative resistance,” states Shana M. griffin, feminist researcher and interdisciplinary artist. “Inspired by the location of Collins' first studio and her aesthetic practice of challenging racial and gender stereotypes and controlling images of the Black body through the camera, the archival research and racialized gender analysis of Arthé A. Anthony in Picturing Black New Orleans: A Creole Photographers View of the Early Twentieth Century, and the pioneering research of artist, writer, and scholar Deborah Willis, First Frame reimagines the bold and inventive work of early Black photographers, celebrates Black visual histories, and explores the creative risk-taking evident in their work.”
First Frame will feature a reimagined Florestine Perrault Collins Parlor Room and an early twentieth-century Black portrait studio at the New Orleans African American Museum from October 6, 2022 to June 4, 2023.
"Historical photographers challenge negative stereotypes and violent forms of erasure by changing the visual narrative of how Black people were represented in popular culture. Black photographers like Collins documented proof of our existence as we were, a dignified people, recording important achievements in everyday life," notes photographer Eric Waters.
“The New Orleans African American Museum is excited to partner with SEEING BLACK to present this monumental work and situate the launch of the prelude in the historic Tremé community, the site of Collins' first two studios,” states Gia Hamilton, Executive Director and Chief Curator of the New Orleans African American Museum.
First Frame will be accompanied by opening receptions and public programming, including panel discussions, workshops, and more.
Following First Frame, the book version of SEEING BLACK: Black Photography in New Orleans 1840 & Beyond will be published by the University of New Orleans Press in the spring of 2023, featuring over 200 images with writings by griffin, Salaam, Mouton, and Waters. “SEEING BLACK will be a powerful, dazzling, and certainly beautiful title,” says UNO Press editor Chelsey Shannon. “We are proud and elated to be a partner in bringing this work to life in handheld form, complementing the project’s other manifestations.”
From February 3 to May 27, 2023, the second exhibition series will take place at Ashé Cultural Arts Center. “As Ashé embarks on its twenty-fifth-anniversary celebration next year, we are excited to feature the work of photographers from and working in New Orleans, celebrating Black life, Black protest, and Black culture through the visual frame of the camera,” states Frederick Wood Delahoussaye, Chief Creative Officer at Ashé Cultural Arts Center.
The third exhibition in the series will take place during the summer/fall of 2023 at Xavier University’s Art Collections and Gallery. ‘We are honored to collaborate with SEEING BLACK and look forward to presenting a diverse body of contemporary work from Black photographers,” remarks Anne Collins Smith, Director of the Xavier University Collections and Art Gallery.
The arrangement of additional sites is underway to present the full scope of the photographers participating in SEEING BLACK.
Historical work included in SEEING BLACK draws from the collections of Arthé A. Anthony, Cheron Brylski, Charlene Legaux Richard, Tex Stevens, Amistad Research Center, Xavier University of Louisiana Library, The Historic New Orleans Collection, the Hogan Archive of New Orleans Music and New Orleans Jazz at Tulane University Special Collection, the UNO Earl K. Long Library’s Louisiana and Special Collections, the Library of Congress, the New Orleans Public Library, the Louisiana State Museum, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate, and LSU Libraries Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections.
SEEING BLACK is supported by several community partners, including the New Orleans African American Museum, Xavier University Art Gallery, Xavier University of Louisiana Art Department, Ashé Cultural Arts Center, PUNCTUATE, University of New Orleans Press, Antenna, Amistad Research Center, and The Historic New Orleans Collection.
SEEING BLACK is funded in part by the UNO Press with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Jazz and Heritage Foundation, Monroe Fellowship of the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South, Platforms Fund, and Rosenberg Foundation.
First Frame, SEEING BLACK: Black Photography in New Orleans 1840 & Beyond’s preludial exhibition, is organized by SEEING BLACK and presented in collaboration with the New Orleans African American Museum. SEEING BLACK is organized by writer and activist Kalamu ya Salaam, feminist activist, researcher, and artist Shana M. griffin, photographer and activist Eric Waters, and photographer and historian Girard Mouton,III.
New Orleans African American Museum of Art
The New Orleans African American Museum of Art, History, and Culture (NOAAM) was founded in 1996 under the guidance and extensive support of the City of New Orleans Department of Housing and Neighborhood Development. Located in the Tremé section of New Orleans, NOAAM seeks to educate, preserve, interpret, and promote the contributions that people of African descent have made to the development of New Orleans and Louisiana culture.
Ashé Cultural Arts Center
Ashé Cultural Art Center’s innovative programming is designed to utilize culture in fostering human development and civic engagement. As ecosystem builders, Ashé delivers programming and direct services that support, leverage, and celebrate the people, places, and philosophies of the African Diaspora.
Xavier University Art Gallery
The Xavier University Art Gallery’s primary mission is to increase the knowledge and understanding of our global African Diaspora community and diverse contemporary culture through the particular lens of the vast visual histories and cosmologies of the descendant communities of Louisiana. The Art Collections and Gallery believes in the power of art to change communities. It facilitates this transformation through the organization and production of exhibitions, publications, and public programs on the issues of descendant communities and the world at large.
University of New Orleans Press
Founded in 2003, the University of New Orleans Press is a nonprofit book publisher stemming from the rich cultural tradition of New Orleans and its surrounding region. The Press seeks literature inspired by this tradition as well as work that contributes to the intellectual and aesthetic life of academic and general audiences everywhere.
Located in Tremé, America’s oldest neighborhood of free people of color, the New Orleans African American Museum is dedicated to the preservation, presentation, and interpretation of the culture of the African...