Why Collect Photography?

It is said, ‘a people without knowledge of their history is like a tree without roots.’ I have been involved in photography for 40 years. My photographic work in the African Diaspora explores cultural lifestyles, value, history, fashion, business, power, music, science, love, beauty, dance, religion, politics, travel, folklore, thought, pride, dignity, honor, humor and the humanity of all people. My work is not only beneficial to people of African descent, but to all human beings.

Everyone can benefit from uplifting images that inspire, empower and impart knowledge.
I’m going to take you on some of the journeys I’ve been to, let you visit some of the many places I’ve seen; where you’ll meet many interesting and wonderful people. In this blog we’re going to have fun; exploring classic, fine-art and contemporary images of photographic life.

The Misleading Truth:

We look to images for answers, strength and purpose; ways of revealing meaningful things in life; visually discussing, what words can sometimes only suggest. Providing a visual narrative of what took place before, during and possibly after certain periods, place timely imagery in a category of its own. In the 1850s photographs by Robert Gibbs and Thomas Zealy of Columbia, South Carolinian slaves were used to maintain a psychological hold; a form of oppression attempting to express inferiority and a beastly nature of Africans in America. These appalling images found their way locally and internationally into books, magazines and journals. America had no shame with its racist game.

These demeaning images of a people cloaked with injustice; enslavement attire and subservience gave white America the rational justification for maintaining the sub-standard social and economic conditions of African-American enslavement; traits of which still exist today in housing, healthcare, education, law, politics, employment, banking, male-female relationships, family values, law enforcement and a large part of mainstream media, etc.

However, recently bodies of photographic images were discovered dating prior to and after the Civil War and were placed on exhibition at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture entitled, “Visualizing Emancipation.” Many of the African- Americans depicted in these images were portrayed with respect; women in beautiful dresses and proud men wearing their civil war uniforms. Primarily photographed by white photographers, these works clearly show the dignity displayed by African-Americans as we emerged from enslavement.

The Call to Power:

Harvard graduate, Rhode Scholar and Howard University educator, Alain Locke, coined the phrase, “Harlem Renaissance,” a period in the 1920s, where writers like Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Arna Bontemps, Gwendolyn Brooks, James Weldon Johnson, Maya Angelou, W.E.B. Du Bois; with the assistance of white publishers and many other African-American writers across America, helped take control of telling our stories, producing a more balanced prospective of African-American life

Thank God for master photographers such as: James Vander Zee, Prentice H. Polk, Marvin and Martin Smith, Austin Hansen, Roy De Carava and Gordon Parks emerging along with many other visual artists from across the country; Black and white, providing a more dignified light and visual narrative of the African Diaspora; properly discussing our pain, pride and beauty. Why! Because they lived inside or understood our communities; the nuances and sojourn of our lives. These Harlem Renaissance pioneers are the shoulders upon which I stand.

Even though some of these photographers were white; covering the Civil Rights Movement and documenting our everyday lives, indirectly they were part of the visual renaissance taking place in America. They too saw beauty in our faces, hope, passion and determination in our journeys; knowing all we wanted to do was live better lives.

The Financial Rewards:

One of my main purposes for posting “Photograph of the Month” is to assist more African-American families; especially our youth, towards collecting photography. Today, un-limited opportunities of collecting from African-American image makers have become available to all races as a means of exploring, educating, informing and inspiring your friends and family (see Collector’s Gallery) for a better understanding of the challenges Africans encounter in the Diaspora; never giving up-always pushing forward. This gives you the opportunity of spearheading positive dialogue in social settings towards ‘helping create a better world.’ We are more alike than what mainstream media makes us out to be because ‘our achievements’ usually benefit a majority of mankind. Remember, no one has a monopoly on thought!

I emphasize the importance of collecting photography as a means of housing a positive visual record concerning people, places, events and thoughts throughout our communities. This is what an evolved people do…they collect and preserve their presence in time, space, culture and history. Collecting allows you the opportunity to properly craft your thoughts within your private or public spaces; revealing more about the power of your personality than any jewelry, automobiles, clothing, etc. could ever say. Art can provide you with livid discussions; conversations in layers…for many years! There are times you can view an image; seeing something new today and something else tomorrow…it’s deep!

The investment value of collecting can also be very rewarding towards becoming a financial asset and family heirloom. The fact that a photograph can increase in value, as you enjoy its energy upon your wall…is fantastic! Your purchase price, say $1000.00 can accrue to twice or three times as much in value, as the career of the artist inside various art communities and media reviews generates excitement; thereby, discovering audiences who also are also excited, valuing his/her work with very large budgets for patronage and collecting. Just the other day I heard a friend say, “I wish I had collect his work several years ago!” Don’t be that person!

Now! Click on an image and let’s begin collecting!