In 1963, the Kamoinge Workshop produced their first portfolio of photographs taken by members who made up the group. The portfolio included a statement that read: “The Kamoinge Workshop represents fifteen black photographers whose creative objectives reflect a concern for truth about the world, about society and about themselves.” Accompanying that were the words of member Louis Draper, who elegantly wrote: “Hot breath steaming from black tenements, frustrated window panes reflecting the eyes of the sun, breathing musical songs of the living.”
A collective was born. The word Kamoinge is derived from the Gikuyu language of Kenya. Translated literally, it means “a group of people acting together.” This spirit of camaraderie and family suffused the development of the group, which included Roy DeCarava, Anthony Barboza, Louis Draper, and Shawn Walker. Early meetings were held in DeCarava’s midtown Manhattan loft. The following year, they rented a gallery in Harlem on Strivers Row, where they held meetings and hosted exhibitions. When the gallery closed, they moved the meetings to other members’ homes in the city, keeping their bonds intact throughout the years.
In 2004, founding member Anthony Barboza was selected President, and set out a course to create a photography book showcasing the group’s legacy. Together with fellow member Herb Robinson, Barboza has edited Timeless: The Photographs of Kamoinge (Schiffer). Featuring more than 280 photographs taken over fifty years, Timeless is an extraordinary collection of work that reminds us that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
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Photo: Bridge on the Beach. Nassau, Bahamas, 2007. June DeLairre Truesdale.