Photography, for most of its history, has been very much an all-boys club of sorts and mostly white at that. The modern interest in photography is starting to change this as we are beginning to reexamine tradition and practice outside the historical names of photographers. The re-discovery and interest in Mexican photographers such as Manual Álvarez Bravo, Pedro Meyer and Graciela Iturbide for example, bring a new enthusiasm for work produced in other cultures by people not awarded fame status by US magazines.
In the 1960’s, a group of African-American photographers came together to form a group called Kamoinge. Kamoinge means a “group of people working together” in Kikuyu. The group is still active today and is celebrating its 50-year anniversary.
Kamoinge started as a way for its members to support one another. As one of the founding photographers Louis Draper stated, black photographers at that time had no opportunities with magazines or papers. They needed a way to support each other as photographers and as artists.
As the group is celebrating their 50th anniversary, Pennsylvania-based publisher Schiffer has released Timeless: Photographs by Kamoinge, a selection of the groups important contributions to photographic history.
By the 1970’s, the group had added its first female photographer, Ming Smith, and the group began hosting a range of exhibitions. The original meeting space was in a rented brownstone in Harlem. They later moved to the Countee Cullen Library with projects presented at the Studio Museum (Harlem) and the International Center of Photography (Manhattan). Group critiques were used to publish portfolios which were distributed to galleries and museums. The group today consists of 24 members including Magnum photographer, Eli Reed.
Current workshop president told the New York Times, “Kamoinge photographers have never followed the latest trends, but nonetheless we have been influenced by what is around us. As artists, we are moved by all that happens every day; artists are sponges that absorb the feelings of the self and the world and reflect back what we see. Within each photograph is what the artist has lived, and you see the individual’s truth that has been breathed into the art form.”