A new exhibition explores communities of color in the U.S. and abroad through the work of African American photographers John Simmons and Frank Stewart. “Time, Light and Ritual,” on view at Wilmer Jennings Gallery at Kenkeleba in New York City, gathers work from 1967 through the present day, and highlights how both photographers have documented the daily lives and rituals of Black communities throughout their careers. Their black-and-white photographs include portraits and street photographs of children and everyday folks; documentary images of religious and social gatherings; and photographs of cultural icons such as Nina Simone.
Both Stewart and Simmons, who are close friends, began photographing in their teens. Stewart was born in Nashville, TN, grew up in Chicago, and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and Cooper Union. Currently Senior Photographer for Jazz at Lincoln Center, he has exhibited widely and published several books, including Sweet Swing Blues on the Road with Wynton Marsalis.
An Emmy Award-winning cinematographer and UCLA professor, Simmons was motivated to pick up a camera after reading Roy DeCarava and Langston Hughes’ Sweet Flypaper of Life (1955), a depiction of life in Harlem told through DeCarava’s photos and Hughes’s writing. Simmons was mentored by photojournalist Bobby Sengstacke of The Chicago Defender, the African-American newspaper founded in 1905. Simmons graduated from Fisk University and earned his master’s from USC.
“Time, Light and Ritual,” will be on display through July 29, 2017, at Wilmer Jennings Gallery at Kenkeleba, an art space dedicated to exhibiting African-American, Latino, Asian-American and Native American artists.