Friday, May 17, 2013

JUMP again: A Forum for New World Culture - A Blog by Ray Grist


A Brief History

Kamoinge, Inc. was founded as a collective of African-American photographers seeking artistic equality and empowerment. It works as a forum in which members view, nurture, critique and challenge each other’s work in an honest and understanding atmosphere. In 1963, two groups of New York based, African American photographers held a joint meeting. One group was Group 35, which included James Ray Francis, Adger W. Cowans, Louis Draper, Herman Howard, Earl James and Calvin Mercer. The other group included Herbert Randall, Albert Fennar, Shawn Walker, and James Mannas. Out of this meeting came the Kamoinge Workshop. The name derives from the Gikuyu language of Kenya and means ‘a group of people acting together.’  Photographers Roy DeCarava, Larry Stewart and Melvin Mills were important catalysts for the group’s early development with DeCarava, a philosophical and artistic innovator, voted the first director of Kamoinge.

In 1965, the group opened the Kamoinge Gallery in a brownstone on West 137th Street. The activities in the new space included numerous group exhibitions, rigorous and constructive critiques of photographs and portfolios, frequent visitors and guest speakers. Early guests included: Peter Magubane, a photojournalist from South Africa; John Szarkowski, Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art; Langston Hughes, playwright and Poet Laureate of Harlem (who was a guest at a few Kamoinge meetings); Henri Cartier-Bresson, the important French photojournalist; and R. E. Martinez, publisher of Camera, an influential Swiss photo magazine. Since the founding of Kamoinge, its members have participated in hundreds of individual and group exhibitions in major national and international artistic institutions too numerous to name. Kamoinge members have published scores of photographic books and portfolios, all concerned with the truth, insight and integrity of both the subject and artistic process.

Kamoinge is the most longstanding group of creative professional photographers existing in America to date.

Based in New York City, Kamoinge has met continuously since 1963 under the leadership of creative and active directors including Anthony Barboza, Roy DeCarava, Louis Draper and Beuford Smith. Individually, the members lecture, conduct seminars, teach in universities and work in fine art photography, commercial photography, motion pictures, and video. Current active members include Salimah Ali, Anthony Barboza (President), Mark Lee Blackshear, Spencer Burnett, Adger W. Cowans (Vice-President), Gerald Cyrus, C. Daniel Dawson, Albert Fennar, Collette V. Fournier, Russell K. Frederick, Ronald Herard, Toni Parks, John Pinderhughes, Herb Randall, Eli Reed, Herb Robinson (Treasurer), Radcliffe Roye, Darryl Sivad, Ming Smith Murray, Frank Stewart, June Truesdale, Shawn Walker and Budd Williams. The current portfolios and projects of Kamoinge members can be viewed at


Herb Robinson has been documenting the human experience as a New York based photographer for over 40 years. From early on, the great Roy De Carava was a seminal influence that encouraged him in his work. Herb also studied and absorbed the work of such painters as Chardin and Vermeer who influenced his composition and use of light. Music - jazz in particular - has been an important influence on Herb's working style.

Herb says, "My instrument is the camera, the vessel that responds to and carries my emotions. These 8 photographs are a continuation of my Still Life Figure Series, started a few decades ago, as homage to the beauty of the human form. No other species possesses such complexities of line, form, texture and movement.





Coming from the urban realism of The Ashcan School, my newest portfolio
works to move my inner vision of the world around me into reality; to make
the invisible visible. I seek to reveal what is usually hidden - to manifest
rather than to create. Following from the Be-Bop artists like Monk, Bird and
Miles, from the works of Fellini and Antonioni, and from the cubists and
abstract expressionists, I am developing a surrealist modernist view drawn
from an African aesthetic, advancing the legacy of Romare Bearden,
Charles White and Jacob Lawrence.
Here the walls, sidewalks and streets themselves are the subject matter, as
they reveal the spirits within; the spirits that called to our ancestors to
create the traditional rituals that I celebrate in my earlier work. I see myself
not as religious but as spiritualist. My large collection of African
masks/”primitive” objects and my study and knowledge of the Black/African
aesthetic provided the impetus for this series.
Other photographs within the series harken to the universe, to exploding
stars and super novas. These move inward towards neutrons and protons
and outward towards galaxies. In the tradition of the Dogon who first
recognized and incorporated the movement and significance of the stars
into their everyday lives, I am trying to connect the spiritual with the
concrete, looking at the concealed universes around us.
The magic of photography allows the photographer to give voice to his
alchemist self. This series uses light to give rise to the painter within the
photographer. Consistent with my previous work, however, all of these
images are “found images”. They are not digitally created or re-organized,
only enhanced. They pull through the multi-layering within the existing
reality to reveal the significance within the common place. The viewers
must interact with these shapes and colors to find their own interpretation
of what exists: to find, if you wish, their own spirits.
I see part of my responsibility as a photographic artist to broaden the
perspective of our craft to present views of the world others might not have
seen or considered. I am trying to move my art form forward.


These images reflect my work as a photo-journalist/street photographer, as I give
expression to my more surrealist fine-art voice. These are all analog images that have
been “found” – neither computer generated or enhanced nor super-impositions done
in the darkroom. I am attempting to document the “parallel universes” that we
confront every day but often do not see.

The series deals with reflective surfaces. I am interested in the multi-layering of
collage art and how the interplay of the layers influences the interpretation of their
individual meaning and the viewer’s understanding of the whole image. I am
attempting to emulate what the classical be-bop musicians like Bird, Diz, Monk,
Trane and Miles did: taking basic, common themes and re-working them/improvising
on them.

I am presenting visual images in new rhythmic and harmonic formulations,
improvising with how many layers I capture. My multi-dimensional images include
glass, the background within it, the focal plane and planes behind the camera.
Sometimes one or more of these planes have additional reflected elements that
multiply the complexity. They incorporate both an image and a process, with a 2-D
perspective that follows into the distance and an enhanced 3-D dimensionality. The
viewer adds the final dimension in this process – as (s)he brings a personal
interaction with all of these elements, resolves the initial confusion and sees the
common-place in a new way.

A master black-and-white printer, I started to work in sepia in the 1970’s*. Sepia
gave additional depth when photographing people of color, and the warm tones
provided another element in my visual statements, giving me a new excitement about
my work. When I lost access to my darkroom and moved to commercial processing, I
found that using a dye-silver process film (Kodak C-41) on color paper gave me a
sepia option that further enhanced the project.

Be-Bop/Improvisation is one of my on-going projects.

*My first sepia portfolio was completed in 1978, after working with Agfa Portriga-
Rapid in the 1960’s and selenium toning, exploring the richness/benefit to my
portraiture work.

Monday, May 13, 2013

JUMP again: A Forum for New World Culture - A Blog by Ray Grist


Anthony Barboza was born 1944 in New Bedford, Massachusetts.  He is an African-American photographer, historian, artist and writer. With roots originating from Cape Verde, and work that began in commercial art over forty years ago, Barboza’s artistic talents and successful career helped him to cross over and pursue his passions in the fine arts where he continues to contribute to the American cultural scene.

Barboza has a prolific and wide range of both traditional and innovative works that have been exhibited in public and private galleries, prestigious museums and educational institutions worldwide. He is well known for his photographic work of Jazz musicians from the 70's - 80's. Barboza says,“When I do a portrait, I’m doing a photograph of how that person feels to me; how I feel about the person, not how they look. I find that in order for the portraits to work, they have to make a mental connection as well as an emotional one. When they do that, I know I have it.” Many of his photographs achieve his signature effect through the careful use of lighting and shadows, manipulation of the backdrop, measured adjustments to shutter speeds, composition, and many other techniques and mediums at his command.

Barboza takes a critical look at the role and experiences of the African Diaspora in the historical as well as contemporary context of race, sexuality, gender, politics, and social issues in American society and culture.

Barboza’s work has appeared in photojournalist and editorial spreads for: The New Yorker, Newsweek, Business Week, TV Guide, National Geographic, Town and Country, Village Voice, Vibe, US, Vanity Fair, People, Esquire, GQ, Home, Elle (US, Canadian, French, and Spanish editions) Elle Decour, Vogue, McCalls, Interview, Details, Black Book, Harper’s Bazaar, Self, Glamour, Ms., Women’s Day, Cosmopolitan, Playboy, Ebony, Black Enterprise, Geo (Germany), Art News, Washingtonian, Modern Maturity, Mode, Audubon, Redbook, Telegraph Mag (U.K.), The Sunday Times Mag. (U.K.) Forbes, Fortune, USA Weekend, Dance Magazine, Life Magazine, and the New York Times Sunday Magazine.


started as a photography at the age of 14 with his father, an avid amateur photographer. He studied with Ralph Hattersley (Columbia University), Lizette Model (New School for Social Research), and Paul Caponegro (New York University/ Graduate Institute of Film and Television). Dawson worked as a medical photographer at the New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry where he developed his craft under Marshall Taub, the Chief Medical Photographer. At NYU, Dawson also studied the history of photography under John Szarkowski and Peter Bunnell, who were at the time the curators of photography at the Museum of Modern Art (NYC). While in film school he met Louis Draper, one of the founding members of Kamoinge, a pioneering group of African American photographers founded in 1963. Dawson was later asked to join the group in 1970. In 1971 he was awarded a CAP Grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, in 1978 a CETA Grant from the Cultural Council Foundation (NYC), and in 1984 an independent grant to photograph in Brazil. As a photographer, he has been published in numerous books and magazines and has shown in over 35 exhibitions. 

As a scholar, C. Daniel Dawson has lectured at the House of World Cultures-Berlin, the Kit Tropenmuseum-Amsterdam, the University of California-Berkeley, University of Texas-Austin, University of Wisconsin-Madison, New School for Social Research, Columbia University, Princeton University and the Federal Universities of Bahia and Rio de Janeiro-Brazil. Dawson has also taught seminars on African Spirituality in the Americas at Columbia University, University of Iowa, New York University, and Yale University. He is currently a professor at both New York University (Gallatin School of Individualized Study) and Columbia University (Institute for Research in African American Studies).


Photographs from São Luís, Maranhão, Brazil 2000-2006

Carnival is one of Brazil’s most well known cultural activities, especially the celebrations of the Escolas da Samba in Rio de Janeiro and the Bloco Afros in Salvador, Bahia, but there are numerous other important festivals throughout the country. Little known outside of the state of Maranhão,  Bumba-Meu-Boi is non the less one of the most impressive cultural manifestations of the African Diaspora. The name ‘Bumba-Meu-Boi’ can mean ‘Bang! Pow! Wham! My Bull.’ In its’ contemporary form, it is a spectacular celebration that fuses African, Amerindian and European elements in a swirling colorful display. Brazilians often point to this fusion as illustrating their national ethos and the blending of the races in their country. Unfortunately, that description of creolization, as is the case with capoeira and samba, tends to obscure or devalue an originating African influence.

Ethnomusicologist Kazadi wa Mukuna has shown that Bumba-Meu-Boi was created in the São Francisco river valley in the states of Bahia and Pernambuco in the 17th Century and later spread to other parts of Brazil.  Enslaved Africans working in the area’s sugar plantations and mills created it to ridicule their colonial masters.  Makuna presents a quote from 1861 in which Bumba-Meu-Boi is described as “the stupid and immoral merrymaking of slaves.” (The description above was extracted from Rhythms of Resistance: African Musical Heritage in Brazil by Peter Fryer, which is a scholarly classic on Brazilian music.) The basic plot tells the story of the birth, growth, death and resurrection of a prize bull on the plantation of a Portuguese owner. A slave, Pai Francisco, killed the bull so that his pregnant wife, Mãe Catarina, could satisfy her craving for the tongue of an ox. After exhausting the abilities of western medicine and science, they call in an Amerindian healer who successfully resurrects the bull.

The different styles of bumba are designated as soltaques or accents.  Although the exact date of its creation is unknown, the earliest style of bumba was Boi de Zabumba, the most African form. The types of instruments used in Zabumba and manner of playing them indicate a musical origin in the traditions of Central Africa. Boi de Zabumba was later imitated and modified to emphasize other ethnic identities. The Boi de Matraca style, created around 1868, stresses an Amerindian or indigenous cultural contribution. Central to this style are the Caboclos da Pena (Indians of the Feather), figures dressed in huge feathered costumes, representing Amerindian shamans with the power to heal. The most prominent musical instruments are the matracas, large hardwood clappers. The most recent style, Boi de Orquestra, originated in 1952 and stressed European costumes, choreography, instruments and musical styles.


The Bumba-Meu-Boi Photography Project was started in 1999. It grew out of an older Brazilian project, which began in 1983 and was formalized in 1984 with a grant from Arthur Ashe and Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe. The earliest images were taken using Canon and Leica film cameras, and Kodak and Fuji transparency films. These analog film images were later scanned using an ICG 380 vertical drum scanner at the Advanced Media Studio at New York University. Starting in 2005 all the photographs were taken with Canon digital cameras. John Pinderhughes made the prints for this exhibit on Canson Platine Fiber Rag paper using a Canon 5100 digital printer. A larger selection Bumba-Meu-Boi photographs were shown in 2011 at the Brazilian Endowment for the Arts (NYC) in a group exhibition, Between Light and Shadow: Aspects of Brazilian Popular Culture, curated  by 
Liza Papi.