Library of Congress Acquires Harlem Photographer’s Collection

Library of Congress Acquires Harlem Photographer’s Collection


An archive of work by Shawn Walker, a founding member of the Harlem-based African-American photography collective the Kamoinge Workshop, will join the Library of Congress’s collection, the organization announced Wednesday.

The library worked with the Photography Collections Preservation Project to purchase nearly 100,000 of Mr. Walker’s photographs, negatives and transparencies that capture life, primarily in Harlem, between 1963 and the present. The collection also includes photos of political leaders and cultural icons like Jesse Jackson, Toni Morrison and Thelonious Monk.

“I have tried to document the world around me, particularly the African-American community, especially in Harlem, from an honest perspective so that our history is not lost,” Mr. Walker, 80, said in a statement.

Mr. Walker also donated nearly 2,500 photographs, audio recordings and items from his time with the Kamoinge collective, a group he and other leading black photographers founded in 1963 in response to racial discrimination by mainstream publications. Together the group hosted exhibitions and met to share their critical perspectives and professional experiences.

“At the time the organization started, most pictures of African Americans in the media were derogatory and he wanted to show a happier side, more of a community interacting,” Beverly Brannan, the library’s curator of 20th-century documentary photography, said in a phone interview.

The donated collection includes prints by Kamoinge members, including Anthony Barboza, Louis Draper and others, as well as advertisements for the group’s exhibitions, copies of speeches members gave and audio recordings of meetings.

“Kamoinge was my Sorbonne,” Mr. Walker said in the statement, “with my introduction to and discussions and lessons on film and printing, photography, jazz, painting, literature and the other arts.”

Once organized, Mr. Walker’s extensive collection of images and items from his time with the collective will be made available by appointment to researchers. And this summer, an exhibition that includes photographs by Mr. Walker and 14 other early members of the Kamoinge collective will travel from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. “Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop” will be on view at the Whitney from July through October.



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