Kamoinge, Inc. was founded as a collective of African-American photographers seeking artistic equality and empowerment. It works as a forum in which members view, nurture, critique and challenge each other’s work in an honest and understanding atmosphere. In 1963 two groups of African American photographers held a joint meeting. One group was Group 35, which included James Ray Francis, Louis Draper, Herman Howard, Earl James and Calvin Mercer. The other group included Herbert Randall, Albert Fennar and James Mannas. Out of this meeting came the Kamoinge Workshop. The name derives from the Gikuyu language of Kenya and means ‘a group of people acting together.’ Photographers Roy DeCarava, Larry Stewart and Melvin Mills were important catalyst for the group’s early development with DeCarava, a philosophic and artistic innovator, voted the first director of Kamoinge.
In 1965 the group opened the Kamoinge Gallery in a brownstone on West 137th Street. The activities in the new space included: numerous group exhibitions; rigorous but constructive critiques of photographs and portfolios; and frequent visitors and guest speakers. Early guests included: Peter Magune, a photojournalist from South Africa; John Szarkowski, Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art; Langston Hughes, playwright and Poet Laureate of Harlem; Henri Cartier-Bresson, the important French photojournalist; and R. E. Martinez, publisher of Camera, an influential Swiss photo magazine. Kamoinge’s body of work spans the past 50 years and includes numerous images of daily life in black America and the African diaspora during the last half of the 20th century. Its exhibits and publications are too numerous to mention for the 25 members. In 2006, the collective was awarded its first grant from the Open Society Foundation to document the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for one year. In 2015, the collective taught a one month long photography workshop in Ethiopia sponsored by the United Nations Educational Science Cultural Organization and it released the Schiffer published 350-plus page book, “Timeless: Photographs by Kamoinge” to rave reviews by The New York Times. Kamoinge members have published scores of photographic books and portfolios, all concerned with the truth, insight and integrity of both the subject and artistic process.
Based in New York City, Kamoinge has met continuously since 1963 under the leadership of creative and active directors including Roy DeCarava, Louis Draper, Beuford Smith, Anthony Barboza and Adger Cowans. Individually, the members lecture, conduct seminars, teach in universities. work in fine art photography, photojournalism, documentary photography, commercial photography, motion pictures, and video. Current members include Salimah Ali, Anthony Barboza, Mark Lee Blackshear, Adger W. Cowans (President), Gerald Cyrus, C. Daniel Dawson, Albert Fennar, Collette V. Fournier, Russell K. Frederick (Vice-President), Ronald Herard, Jerry Jack, A.D. Minter, Toni Parks, John Pinderhughes (Treasurer), Herb Randall, Eli Reed, Herb Robinson, Radcliffe Roye, Ming Smith Murray, Frank Stewart, June Truesdale, Shawn Walker and Budd Williams. The current portfolios and projects of Kamoinge members can be viewed at www.kamoinge.com.