A triumphant celebration of the power of family, endurance, spirituality, and the diverse range of the African American experience over the last two centuries.
Reflections in Black
, the first comprehensive history of black photographers, is Deborah Willis''s long-awaited, groundbreaking assemblage of photographs of African American life from 1840 to the present. Willis, a curator of photography at the Smithsonian Institution, has selected nearly 600 stunning images that give us rich, hugely moving glimpses of black life, from slavery to the Great Migrations, from rare antebellum portraits to 1990s middle-class families. Featuring the work of undisputed masters such as James Presley Ball, C. M. Battey, James VanDerZee, Morgan and Marvin Smith, Gordon Parks, Moneta Sleet, Jr., and Carrie Mae Weems, among hundreds of others, Reflections in Black is, most powerfully, a refutation of the gross caricature of the many mainstream photographers who have continually emphasized poverty over family, despair over hope. Recalling Roman Vishniac''s
in terms of its documentary importance, and Brian Lanker''s
I Dream a World
in terms of its exceptional beauty,
Reflections in Black
is not only an exceptional gift book for any occasion but also a work so significant that it has the power to reconfigure our conception of American history itself. It demands to be included in every American family''s library as the record of an essential part of our heritage. Publication will coincide and tie in with a major exhibition at The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, which will then travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Albany, New York; Corpus Christi, Texas; and other cities.
Willis (curator, Smithsonian!s Center for African American History and Culture) continues enlightening the public about visual representations of African American experiences, work that just won her a MacArthur genius grant. This catalog of a Smithsonian exhibit that will tour America starting this summer should be read in conjunction with her other books on the subject: Black Photographers, 1840$1940: An Illustrated Bio-Bibliography (New Pr., 1992), VanDerZee, Photographer, 1886$1983 (LJ 11/15/93), and Picturing Us: African American Identity in Photography (LJ 12/94). In this more comprehensive book, Willis alternates chronological sections of photographs with essays that discuss the individual photographers and the scope of their work. They range from men and women who operated photography studios and made dignified portraits of the people in their communities, to photojournalists documenting social change, to contemporary artists making creative statements with digital montage techniques. This book certainly should be selected for African American or photography collections, but it could alternatively be put in general American history or social history."Anne Marie Lane, Univ. of Wyoming, Laramie
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Take the time to examine these faces. Make the time to treasure this book. --
BET.com, Barbara Summers
Deborah Willis, a MacArthur, Guggenheim, and Fletcher Fellow, is the author of
Reflections in Black,
Michelle Obama: The First Lady in Photographs, and the
New York Times bestseller
Obama: The Historic Campaign in Photographs. She is chair of the photography department and a University Professor at New York University.