KAMOINGE workshop Archive

Kamoinge group photo, 1973 © Anthony Barboza

Kamoinge group photo, 1973 © Anthony Barboza

 The Photography Collections Preservation Project (PCPP) is launching a three-year project with the Kamoinge Workshop. Founded in 1963 in Harlem, Kamoinge (the Kenyan Kikuyu word for “collective”) aims to represent the lives of African Americans through photography. Its goal is to challenge stereotypes in the media, providing positive and complete images.

Kamoinge’s group of fifteen founders included Herman Howard, Calvin Mercer, Herbert Randall, Shawn Walker, Louis Draper, and Roy DeCarava. DeCarava, an artistic innovator who served as Kamoinge’s first director, was well-known for his chronicles of daily life in Harlem, the civil rights movement, and jazz. Under his leadership, the group received early support from cultural influencers including Henri Cartier- Bresson, Langston Hughes, and James Van Der Zee. Today, Kamoinge’s 20+ members include Anthony Barboza, Shawn Walker, and Ming Smith Murray.

The collective’s archive incorporates the group’s photographs and related materials, which provide important artistic, socio-cultural, and historic context. As the founding Kamoinge members are advancing in years, while others have already died, it is urgent that their input on the archive, their reasons for participating in the Kamoinge, and their personal artistic statements be recorded and preserved.

This project launches amidst a growing interest in Kamoinge members’ work, as well as that of African-American photographers generally. Kamoinge photographers are featured in the exhibition Soul of a Nation, which will travel to The Broad, Los Angeles (2019), after showing at The Brooklyn Museum (2018), Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (2018), and the Tate Modern (2017). Other upcoming exhibitions include one at the National Arts Club, on which PCPP is collaborating (June 2018); a show at the Museum of the City of New York (2020); and a show of Draper’s work at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (2020).

Portrait of Kamoinge © Jenny Walker

Portrait of Kamoinge © Jenny Walker

Further Reading