PDN Photo of the Day

Adger Cowans’s “Personal Vision”

Over the course of a long career that included an apprenticeship with Gordon Parks, a run as a successful magazine portraitist and film set photographer and a longstanding interest in fine art, Adger Cowans has been driven by the desire to capture emotion. His work is collected in Personal Vision, a new book out next week from Glitterati Incorporated that celebrates the span of his work, from street studies to portraits of creators ranging from Romare Bearden, pictured with his cat, to Mick Jagger napping in a hammock. Cowans was a member of two influential 1960s African American artist collectives, Kamoinge, a New York-based group of photographers whose name means “a group of people working together,” and AfriCOBRA, collective of visual artists started in Chicago. As Tuliza Fleming, curator at the National Museum of African American History and Culture writes in her foreword, Cowans, “admired the manner through which the members of both groups forged their own destiny as artists, a point that cannot be overstated during an era where white patrimony was considered by most to be the only pathway to artistic success.”

Among the close to 200 images in the book is one that Cowans describes as “the first photo I took that moved me,” made in 1956. In it, four smiling children hold balloons on sticks. Writes Cowans, “These kids were very poor, and they were watching the balloon man with such intensity and longing that I bought some for them. When I saw those images I understood the power of a photograph. The photos were not about being poor; they were about happiness. The smiles on those faces made me understand how a photo could move people to see, think, and feel.”

Related Images:
Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison Tour Harlem
The Grandassa Models, Naturally
Dawoud Bey Returns to Harlem with a New Photographic Approach

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