For over 40 years America has dedicated the month of February as Black History Month. During this month we celebrate the monumental contributions and achievements African Americans have accomplished throughout our history. Prior to the 20th century there were few, if any black Americans recognized or learned about in history books! For that reason, we've gathered 4 black photographers who have broken barriers, and helped shape the nation we live in.
If you've followed along on our social media channels, each week for the month of February we recognized black pioneers in photography—Coreen Simpson, Moneta Sleet Jr., Carrie Mae Weems, and Gordon Parks. As Black History Month comes to a close, let us not forget the influence these photographers have made on creatives of every race, ethnicity and background. Many of the vintage cameras they used have found their place on our shelves. KEH is dedicated to keeping great photographers alive through the vintage cameras we acquire.
Coreen Simpson is an award-winning African American photographer and jewelry designer. Simpson began her career in the 80s as an editor in New York. Her photographs helped illustrate her articles in the “Unique New York” magazine.
Simpson continued to work as a freelance fashion photographer while covering many cultural and political events. She captured photos of many famous African Americans, including author and activist James Baldwin, poet Maya Angelou, and fellow photographer, Gordon Parks.
Moneta Sleet Jr.
African American photographer, Moneta Sleet Jr. is best known for being a popular staff photographer for Ebony Magazine. Sleet's work focused on the beauty and struggle of being black in America. Sleet became the first African-American man to win the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography.
A small box camera sparked his passion for photography. Later in his career, he used a 35mm Nikon camera to capture some of his most famous photographs.
Carrie Mae Weems
Carrie Mae Weems is an award winning African American photographer and artist best known for her photography, films and videos. At a young age, she was involved in the fight for racial equality. As a result, her work explored a multitude of issues; focusing on racism, politics, sexism, and personal identity as it relates to the black community. Her cameras were a tool to document the black experience.
"I’m not interested in stomping around the world with thirteen cameras, ten lenses, umbrellas and stands, and all that [...]. I move around with an old beat-up camera, a [...] tripod, and as much film as I can carry. Then I just trust that I know what I’m doing with this little black box…”- @carriemaeweems
A 35mm camera was Weems first camera at the young age of 21. Using a 20 x 24 Polaroid camera, one of the largest format cameras, a lot of her work in the darkroom.
Activist and self taught photographer, Gordon Parks gained popularity for his documentary photography. Parks described using his camera as a weapon against social wrongs. Furthermore, through his photographs he explored the social and economic impacts of racism. His first camera was the Voigtländer Brilliant and later went on to use a Rolleiflex TLR and cameras from the Nikon F line.