The Black List: Photographs by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

The Black List: Photographs by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Eigth and F Streets, NW
Washington, D.C.
Open daily: 11:30-19:00 ET
2011-10-28 through 2012-04-22

Curator: Ann Shumard
Historian: David C. Ward

 Maya Rudolph, 2008 Slash [Saul Hudson], 2007 Angela Davis, 2008 Colin Powell, 2007
Portraits by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders — Individual prints are Epson inkjet prints, 147.3 x 111.8 cm (58 x 44 in.)

What is a “black list”? The dictionary defines it as “a list of persons who are disapproved of or are to be punished or boycotted.” But imagine if the black list were a roll call of distinction rather than of disenfranchisement? What if being on the black list was a point of pride rather than dread? What if the black list could shed its negative connotation to become a term of affirmation and empowerment like black pride, black power, or black is beautiful?

These are some of the questions that prompted photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders (born 1952) to embark on a portrait project to create an entirely new kind of black list—a visual “who’s who” of African American men and women whose intelligence, talent, and determination have propelled them to prominence in disciplines as diverse as religion, performing arts, medicine, sports, art, literature, and politics.

Although these individuals have traveled different paths to success, all share a deep-seated activism that has carried them over daunting obstacles and continues to be a driving force in their lives. If the new black list represents a chronicle of African American achievement, the fifty men and women pictured here surely merit inclusion on its rolls.

Artist Statement

On February 24, 2005, Toni Morrison was having lunch in my East Village kitchen. The conversation turned to “divas,” as Toni described the extraordinarily talented performers she had auditioned for her opera, Margaret Garner. “Timothy, we should do a portrait book on these women. “Call it . . . Black Divas.”

It got me thinking about all the African Americans I knew and had photographed. I made a list: Toni of course, David Hammons, Bill T. Jones, and Colin Powell quickly came to mind…

Read the entire Artist Statement here.

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