Nearly 100,000 Images by Harlem Photographer Shawn Walker Acquired by Library of Congress

Nearly 100,000 Images by Harlem Photographer Shawn Walker Acquired by Library of Congress

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February 29, 2020

Andrew LaSane

Shawn Walker, “Neighbor at 124 W. 117th St, Harlem, New York” (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Working alongside the Photography Collections Preservation Project, the Library of Congress recently announced that it has acquired nearly 100,000 photographs, negatives, and transparencies by Harlem-based African American photographer Shawn Walker. Depicting the rich culture of the New York City neighborhood, the collection spans nearly six decades from the 1960s to the present and is the first comprehensive archive of an African American photographer to join the national library.

Walker also donated a 2,500-piece collection of audio recordings, images, and ephemera representing the Kamoinge Workshop, a collective of Black photographers established in 1963. Self-identifying as a “fine arts photographer with a documentary foundation,” Walker was born and raised in Harlem and has worked to capture the neighborhood as he sees it.

Portrait of Shawn Walker. Photo by: Jenny Walker

“I look for the truth within the image, the multi-layers of existence and the ironies in our everyday lives,” he said in a statement to PCPP. “Working from a Black Aesthetic, my work tries to speak to everyone. For more than 50 years, I have tried to reflect on the positive aspects of my community and to see the relationships between various communities of color.”

“We are very pleased to celebrate the addition of these two important collections to the Library’s extensive representation of African American life in the United States, from photography’s earliest formats to the present day,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said in a statement. The New York Times reports that once organized, Walker’s archive will be made available to view via appointment. Some of his photography along with works by 14 other Kamoinge Workshop members will also be exhibited this summer (July-October 2020) at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Shawn Walker, “Trick-or-treaters,” ca. 1970s. (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Shawn Walker, “African American Day Parade, Harlem, 1989.” (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

 

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