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Timeless: Photographs by Kamoinge by Elizabeth Avedon


The release of the new book, “Timeless: Photographs by Kamoinge,” commemorates the 50th year of the oldest collaborative group of photographers in the nation. Kamoinge is a pioneering photographic collective of New York based African-American photographers, founded in 1963 at the height of the American Civil Rights Movement. The name basically means, “A group of people working together” in Kikuyu. This collection of over 280 photographs taken around the world, includes the groups history, along with insights and thoughts from Kamoinge’s 30 members, who include many of the nation’s most acclaimed photographers. With no particular sequencing by subject matter and not in chronological order, I found myself lost in a magical world of fine art photography dating from the early 1960’s though today.

A brief history of the group begins with photographer Louis Draper (1835 – 2002), who played a principle role in founding this collective in New York in 1963 to address the under-representation of black photographers in the art world. Roy DeCarava (1919 – 2009), the first black photographer to win a Guggenheim Fellowship, was invited to be their Director. Herbert Randall, another founding member, had earlier studied photography under Harold Feinstein in 1957 before he documented Mississippi’s Freedom Summer of 1964. Edward Steichen invited Roy DeCarava in 1964, who in turn invited the Kamoinge group, to exhibit at Danbury Academy of Art in Connecticut. The founding group included Draper, Albert Fennar, Ray Francis, Herbert Randall, Shawn Walker, with Roy DeCarava; expanded to include several new members including Anthony Barboza, the current president and editor of this book; and Ming Smith, the first female member. Beuford Smith joined Kamoinge in 1965, and helped the group achieve non-profit status in 1998. “Timeless” includes an in-depth history by decade by the editor with excerpts from the writings of Louis Draper.

In addition, an exhibition of the same name, “Timeless: Photographs by Kamoinge,” is currently at the Wilmer Jenning Gallery, 219 East 2nd St (Ave. B), New York, NY. A lot of great images including as photographer Jaime Permuth pointed out to me “amazing photos by Gerald Cyrus of Harlem Jazz in the 90’s and a beauty by Beuford Smith of a nude pregnant woman under the rain on a city rooftop.” The show is up through February 20, 2016.

By Elizabeth Avedon


Timeless: Photographs by Kamoinge
Schiffer Publishing
Edited by Anthony Barboza and Herb Robinson,
Coedited by Vincent Alabiso, Foreword by Quincy Troupe,
Essay by Deborah Willis.
9″ x 12″ | 288 b/w and color photos | 384 pp

“Timeless: Photographs by Kamoinge”
Wilmer Jennings Gallery
219 East 2nd Street, (Avenue B x C)
New York, NY 10009 USA
Through February 20, 2016


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