An unprecedented exhibition chronicling the formative years of the Kamoinge Workshop, a collective of Black photographers established in New York City in 1963, has opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The exhibition is titled Working Together and will run through March 28.
“Kamoinge” comes from the language of the Kikuyu people of Kenya and means “a group of people acting together.” This reflects the ideal that aminated the photography collective, active at a time of dramatic social upheaval in American history.
While each of the collective members had their own distinctive personalities and sensibilities, they were all committed to photography’s power and status as an independent art form. A press release states: “They boldly and inventively depicted their communities as they saw and participated in them, rather than as they were often portrayed.”
Working Together focuses on the influential work of founding Kamoinge members, including approximately 140 photographs, taken in the ’60s and ’70s, during what is commonly referred to as the Black Arts Movement.
They are by 14 of the collective’s early members: Anthony Barboza, Adger Cowans, Daniel Dawson, Louis Draper, Al Fennar, Ray Francis, Herman Howard, Jimmie Mannas, Herb Randall, Herb Robinson, Beuford Smith, Ming Smith, Shawn Walker, and Calvin Wilson. Nine of these artists still live in or near New York City.
In addition to the images themselves, Working Together also presents an overview of many of the group’s collective achievements, such as exhibitions, portfolios and publications. The exhibition is organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and curated by Dr. Sarah Eckhardt, associate curator of modern and contemporary art, VMFA.