Celebrating African-American Photographers: Black History Month at NPL

Celebrating African-American Photographers: Black History Month at NPL

To celebrate Black History Month, the team compiled our favorite inspirational quotes from some of the world’s best black photographers, including Gordon Parks, Eli Reed, Lorna Simpson, Roy DeCavara, and Carrie Mae Weems. 

Each have contributed to the photography world in different and profound ways, and their experience and point of view continue to inspire us today:

“I feel it is the heart, not the eye, that should determine the content of the photograph. What the eye sees is its own. What the heart can perceive is a very different matter.” Gordon Parks // Inspirational quotes from famous black photographers

Gordon Parks was a photographer and humanitarian with a passion for documenting poverty and civil rights in the second half of the 20th century. His signature style continues to be celebrated as one of the most iconic of the time.

“It's impossible to change the social without changing the personal - you have to put your money where your mouth is.” - Carrie Mae Weems // Inspirational quotes from famous black photographers

Carrie Mae Weems is an eclectic artist dedicated to exploring the themes of family, gender, racism, and class in America. Although she is well known in the creative community for her revolutionary photography series, she is also an award-winning artist who has worked with textiles, video, and more.

“Observe the life moving like a river around you and realize that the images you make may become part of the collective history of the time that you are living in.” -Eli Reed

Eli Reed is a Harvard-educated photojournalist, professor, and author, and is best known for being the first black photographer to be employed by the famed Magnum Agency. He has captured everything from the everyday life of African Americans in America to major historical events worldwide.

“I’ve always done exactly what I wanted to do, regardless of what was out there. I just stuck to that principle and I’m a much happier person as a result.” Lorna Simpson // Inspiring quotes from famous black photographers

Lorna Simpson is an innovative, multimedia artist who revolutionized the art world with her introduction of photography installations featuring text. Her work continues to be exhibited worldwide.

“You should be able to look at me and see my work. You should be able to look at my work and see me.” - Roy DeCarava // Inspirational quotes from famous black photographers

Roy DeCarava was a New York City-based fine art photographer who mastered the documentary style of photography in the 20th century and beyond. He was awarded the National Medal of the Arts in 2006.

“If you don't have anything to say, your photographs aren't going to say much.” Gordon Parks // Inspirational quotes from famous black photographers

 The camera gave me an incredible freedom. It gave me the ability to parade through the world and look at people and things very, very closely. “ Carrie Mae Weems // Inspirational quotes from famous black photographers

"Lose the ego and let the photograph find you.” Eli Reed // Inspirational quotes from famous black photographers

“The artist creates the material that we look back upon as part of history.” Roy DeCarava // Inspirational quotes from famous black photographers

5 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for taking the time to highlight African American Photographers, who have made an impact in the world of photography.

     
  2. Richard Thomson

    These quotes leave you with an introspective into life. Look within yourself.

     
  3. Ronald M. Witherspoon

    Thank you so much for the inspirational words from African-American artists. It is refreshing to see black achievement recognized and celebrated, especially during these perilous times.
    thanks again!

     
  4. Kerri Cassity

    These are perfect to use on the bulletin board in my high school! Thank you so much.

     
  5. Simply…Thank you for sharing iconic quotes that are truly heartfelt.

     

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