Celebrating Black History: Nine Memorable Episodes from The B&H Photography Podcast

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Since its debut in October 2015, the B&H Photography Podcast has offered weekly conversations with insightful and entertaining guests, on topics most important to the contemporary photographer—from gear and technique to history, science, and art. To commemorate Black History Month, we present to you this compilation of episodes celebrating photographers of color who have appeared on our show.

Photograph "Looking Out"  (detail) © Earlie Hudnall Jr., Courtesy PDNB Gallery, Dallas TX.

From reexamining history through the rich stories and indelible images of John H. White, Lester Sloan, David Parks, Earlie Hudnall, Jr., and the Kamoinge Collective to exploring contemporary themes with Endia Beal, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, Dawn Banji, and Ruddy Roye to absorbing curatorial insights from Aaron Turner, Aisha Sabatini Sloan, Ekoh Eshun, and Polly Irungu, give these memorable episodes a listen for a wide-ranging, insightful, and informative experience.

Meanwhile—if you are not yet a podcast aficionado, we invite you to subscribe on Apple Podcasts and join the B&H Photography Podcast Facebook Group for regular updates and to share your photos and comments.

1. Riff on the Caption - A Conversation with Lester Sloan and Aisha Sabatini Sloan

To mark the publication of their book, Captioning the Archives: A Conversation in Photographs and Text, the B&H Photography Podcast welcomed award-winning news photographer Lester Sloan and noted essayist Aisha Sabatini Sloan in October 2021. In addition to being a conversation about photography and photojournalism, this episode crystallizes an insightful dialog between father and daughter about a lifetime of creative work finally put to print. Relating stories from Sloan’s long editorial career, as well as personal projects dating back to 1960s Detroit, father and daughter provide extensive “captions” for the images made, offering not only details and context about past events with the benefit of hindsight, but personal reflections from both their perspectives. Backstories from a life in photojournalism, running the gamut from political turmoil to everyday assignments, are interwoven with the right questions posed to fill in a deeper meaning, revealing untold stories about the complex relationship between cultural history and the matter of race.

Ossie Davis, on the set of the film, Get on the Bus, 1995 © Lester Sloan
Ossie Davis, on the set of the film, Get on the Bus, 1995 © Lester Sloan
Nelson Mandela visits Detroit, 1990 © Lester Sloan
Nelson Mandela visits Detroit, 1990 © Lester Sloan
Cover of Captioning the Archive: A Conversation in Photographs and Text, 2021 © Lester Sloan
Cover of "Captioning the Archive: A Conversation in Photographs and…
Father and Sons Barber Shop © Lester Sloan
Father and Sons Barber Shop © Lester Sloan

2. Black Women Photographers - Intentional with this Community

In July 2021, the podcast team helped celebrate the first anniversary of the group Black Women Photographers (BWP). Founded by photographer and journalist Polly Irungu with a mission to “disrupt the notion that it is difficult to discover and commission Black creatives,” within its first year BWP quickly grew into a global organization and online directory, comprising more than 600 members. Most significantly, the organization has become a cherished home for Black women and non-binary photographers to receive proper recognition and, ultimately, to get hired. Listen in as Irungu discusses the founding of BWP, tells of the challenges and joys of running an organization that blossomed so quickly, and elaborates on its early successes and future goals. On that note, Irungu broke the news about an annual grant fund she established to support Black women photographers. Also joining the conversation is photographer Dawn Bangi, who received her first professional assignment—with The New York Times, no less—through BWP. We ask Bangi how she learned about BWP as a recent high school graduate, and she describes the assignment she received. We also discuss her other work, the Nikon and Mamiya gear she uses, and the influence of Gordon Parks.

© Polly Irungu
© Polly Irungu
© Polly Irungu
© Polly Irungu
© Dawn Bangi/New York Times
© Dawn Bangi/New York Times

3. Earlie Hudnall, Jr. - Life as I See It

In October 2020, the podcast caught up with Houston-based photographer Earlie Hudnall, Jr. on the occasion of his exhibition at the Photographs Do Not Bend Gallery in Dallas, Texas. In addition to his long tenure as photographer for Texas Southern University, in the 1970s Hudnall began documenting the predominantly African-American neighborhoods of Houston’s Third, Fourth, and Fifth wards under the aegis of the Great Society’s Model Cities Program. Hudnall is old school—he works with digital cameras when needed—but his Hasselblad and Nikon film cameras remain his primary tools. He also prints his photographs, so we talk about sourcing supplies, Ilford paper, and darkroom techniques. And while we do get into camera talk and process, such as why he chooses one camera over the other to make a particular image and how he uses the tools of eye contact and body language to connect with people on the street, much of this episode focuses on the relationship between the stories Hudnall tells in his images from more than 40 years of life in these neighborhoods, and the stories he grew up with in his native Mississippi. Through his organic approach to photography, memory and inspiration merge to create powerful photographs.

Feeling the Spirit, 3rd Ward, Houston, TX, 1987, © Earlie Hudnall, Jr., courtesy PDNB
Feeling the Spirit, 3rd Ward, Houston, TX, 1987, © Earlie Hudnall, Jr.,…
Roots, 1997, © Earlie Hudnall, Jr., courtesy PDNB Gallery, Dallas, TX
Roots, 1997, © Earlie Hudnall, Jr., courtesy PDNB Gallery, Dallas, TX

4. Internal Thoughts about Past Histories - Aaron Turner and Laylah Amatullah Barrayn

In July 2020, the podcast presented a conversation with two photographers—scholar, archivist, and host of the podcast “Photographers of Color” Aaron Turner, and New York-based Laylah Amatullah Barrayn. With Turner, we talk about the genesis of The Center for Photographers of Color, currently located at the School of Arts at the University of Arkansas. Beginning as a Twitter feed aimed at recognizing and connecting African-American photographers, both currently working and of historical significance, Turner elaborates on the Center’s overall mission to develop and maintain a community of photographers, and its research, exhibition, and archiving goals. After a break, we welcome Laylah Amatullah Barrayn for a conversation about the street portraits she made of residents in her Brownsville, Brooklyn, neighborhood during the early uncertain days of the COVID-19 outbreak. We also speak about her work during the June 2020 uprising in Minneapolis, where she focused on portraits of residents, as opposed to the protests themselves. In addition to discussing the need to bear witness, the value of working with a community of photographers, and the “power of the archive,” we delve into technique with a FUJIFILM mirrorless system and a 35mm lens.

Lougè Delcy, also known as Dapper Lou, wears a custom-designed mask near the entrance of Prospect Park. May, 2020 © Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
Lougè Delcy, also known as Dapper Lou, wears a custom-designed mask…
Minneapolis, June, 2020 © Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
Minneapolis, June, 2020 © Laylah Amatullah Barrayn

5. Africa State of Mind, with Ekow Eshun

In April 2020, the show celebrated the publication of the sumptuously illustrated book, Africa State of Mind with journalist, curator, and author Ekow Eshun. This collection of more than 250 contemporary art photographs from throughout Africa combines profiles of established artists, such as Pieter Hugo and Zanele Muholi, with many lesser-known photographers working in (and between) a range of genres. Supported by Eshun’s insightful commentary, the book delves into the unique voices depicting each individual’s experience of Africa today. Our conversation begins with mid-20th-century portrait masters such as Malick Sidibé and Seydou Keita, but quickly jumps to the contemporary as we ask about Eshun’s research for the book, its four thematic sections, and the common threads that tie together the varied photographers’ work. Africa State of Mind is aptly subtitled Contemporary Photography Reimagines a Continent, which Eshun expands on during our discussion in statements such as, "I was really interested in photographers who aren’t interested in reality per se… who don't claim that their photos are what is!" Like our conversation, this book offers a perceptive introduction to the 50 featured artists—extending from Morocco to South Africa—who utilize their subjective experiences and particular talents to reimagine what it means to be African.

Eleventh, 2018. © Lina Iris Viktor, 2018. Courtesy the Artist and Marianne Ibrahim Gallery, Chicago
Eleventh, 2018. © Lina Iris Viktor, 2018. Courtesy the Artist and…
Ditaola VII, 2014. © Mohau Modisakeng
Ditaola VII, 2014. © Mohau Modisakeng
Nana and Razak, 2016. © Eric Gyamfi
Nana and Razak, 2016. © Eric Gyamfi
Kingsley Ossai, Nsukka, Enugu state, Nigeria, 2017. © Ruth Ossai
Kingsley Ossai, Nsukka, Enugu state, Nigeria, 2017. © Ruth Ossai

6. Kamoinge Collective and “The Black Woman: Power and Grace”

During a June 2018 exhibition “The Black Woman: Power and Grace” at the National Arts Club, the podcast team welcomed three members of the Kamoinge photography workshop—Russell Frederick, Delphine Diallo, and Jules Allen—to discuss African-American photography and the role this storied collective has played in nurturing and presenting photography over the past 60 years. Founded in 1963 by a consortium of Black photographers, Kamoinge has established deep and significant roots, while continuing to evolve. In this lively episode, Mr. Frederick, vice-president of the collective at the time of the recording, provides historical context and a sense of the group’s founding and mission. Mr. Allen, current vice-president, discusses a few of the important figures in the group’s history, including Beuford Smith, Roy DeCarava, and Ming Smith; and Ms. Diallo reflects on the appeal this group held for her following her arrival in Brooklyn via France and Senegal. Additionally, she offers valuable insights on the obstacles women photographers still face in our industry.

Havana, Cuba. © Jules Allen, included in “The Black Woman: Power and Grace”
Havana, Cuba. © Jules Allen, included in “The Black Woman: Power and…
Delphine Diallo looks at Roy DeCarava photographs. © John Harris
Delphine Diallo looks at Roy DeCarava photographs. © John Harris
From “womensofnewyork” © Delphine Diallo, included in “The Black Woman: Power and Grace”
From “womensofnewyork” © Delphine Diallo, included in “The Black Woman:…
Church ladies. New York, 2005 © Jamel Shabazz, included in “The Black Woman: Power and Grace”
Church ladies. New York, 2005 © Jamel Shabazz, included in “The Black…
Jules Allen © John Harris
Jules Allen © John Harris

7. To Serve and to Soar - John H. White and Endia Beal

In October 2016, the B&H Photography Podcast recorded a series of notable “conversations from the barn” in an impromptu studio at the 29th annual Eddie Adams Workshop. Our lead episode in the series featured photojournalist John H. White and photographer, artist, and educator Endia Beal. While Mr. White’s work for Chicago’s daily newspapers extends back to the late 1960s and encompasses the 1982 Pulitzer he won while at the Chicago Sun-Times, it is his depiction of Chicago’s African-American community that has garnered the most attention. Listen in as he recounts how his North Carolina upbringing provided him with “roots and wings”; reminisces about relationships with his subjects, including dear friends Muhammad Ali and Nelson Mandela; and reveals the secret to the most important camera he has ever used. Our second guest, Endia Beal, another North Carolina native, describes how her family’s early support instilled in her the motivation to take risks in her storytelling, which questions cultural divisions and skin-color-based stereotypes. Returning to her hometown after college with the mindset and skills of an artist allowed her to discover untold stories and figure out how to fill those gaps. Her photo and video projects explore identity within the corporate space, while her personal perspective as an African-American woman adds to a history that is still being written.

Kyandra and Shakiya, from the series "Am I What You're Looking For?" © Endia Beal
Kyandra and Shakiya, from the series "Am I What You're Looking For?" ©…
Martinique, from the series "Am I What You're Looking For?" © Endia Beal
Martinique, from the series "Am I What You're Looking For?" © Endia Beal
© John H. White
© John H. White
Endia Beal © John H. White
Endia Beal © John H. White
© John H. White
© John H. White

8. GI Diary and the Vietnam Slide Project

Originally aired on March 29, 2019, in commemoration of National Vietnam War Veterans Day, this episode of the podcast features photographs created by U.S. servicemen during their time in Vietnam. Our first guest, David Parks, is the son of legendary photographer Gordon Parks. After dropping out of college in 1964 knowing that he was likely to be drafted, the younger Parks saw front-line combat in Vietnam, documenting his experiences in photographs and text from the viewpoint of an African-American “grunt.” In 1968, excerpts from the diary he kept were published along with his photographs in the book GI Diary, one of the first books published about the Vietnam War. During our lively chat, Mr. Parks discusses the gear he used and talks about his ability to photograph in challenging situations, revealing the story of how his film made it back to the United States from the field, and describing how his diaries came to be published.

From G. I. Diary
From G. I. DiaryDavid Parks

Our second guest is photo editor Kendra Rennick of The Vietnam Slide Project. After a friend asked Ms. Rennick to help organize a collection of her late father’s photos from Vietnam, a project was born, and Ms. Rennick started an archive of “slides” taken only by soldiers who served in the Vietnam War. We speak with Ms. Rennick about the organization of her project, its future, and the relationships she has developed with the veterans and families who donate their imagery.

9. Intention and Interaction in Street Portraiture

In April 2018, the podcast invited two of New York’s best street portraitists—Ruddy Roye and Amy Touchette—for a highly interactive chat about the slippery slope of photographing people, often strangers on the street, with intention, and how to get to moments of trust. While physical and cultural differences between these two photographers may be striking—Mr. Roye is a tall Black Jamaican and Ms. Touchette a petite Caucasian American—their shared communion over working methods and belief systems adds depth and dimension to our chat. We ask how they approach people, how they describe their work when asking for a photograph, and about the importance of body language and eye contact to convey intention and develop trust. We also examine differences in approach when photographing people from varied cultural and economic backgrounds, or when photographing people in groups and, finally, we discuss how to handle pushback, requests for money, outright rejection, and even upsetting encounters. For the gearheads, we touch on working with different cameras, from medium format to cellphone, and how that affects your approach and the interaction with your subjects.

125 St, Harlem, Manhattan, 2017 ©Amy Touchette
125 St, Harlem, Manhattan, 2017 ©Amy Touchette
From Personal Ties: Street Portraits in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn ©Amy Touchette
From "Personal Ties: Street Portraits in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn" ©Amy…
©Ruddy Roye
©Ruddy Roye
From the series “When Living Is a Protest” ©Ruddy Roye
From the series “When Living Is a Protest” ©Ruddy Roye

What do you think of this special podcast compilation? Do you have suggestions for new subjects to cover or podcast guests we should consider? Let us know in the Comments section, below.

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