Exhibition reflects photography in society

By Erika Morris

A visual representation of rich African-American culture entitled “… and they called us ‘Colored'” will be on display in the NIU Art Museum in Altgeld Hall for the remainder of the week.

It is a traveling exhibition featuring two African-American folk photographers, Opal Childs-Glover and Fred Younger, who documented their communities in Seward, Okla., prior to 1940.

The display “looks closely at photographic fragments left behind—in photo albums, shoe boxes, plastic bags and on the walls of those who remember what the images mean,” said Tonnia Anderson, exhibition curator.

“Their work is a reflection of how photography was used in society,” she said.

This rare collection of black and white photographs provides a look at how the camera was used to give visibility to an often invisible people,” she said.

This exhibition is of the “larger cultural values of Southern African-Americans between 1914 and 1936,” she said.

Photography provided a vehicle for African-Americans to express anger and sorrow, frustration and love,” Anderson said.

“The exhibition examines snapshot photography as rural folk expression,” she said.

The photographs in the exhibition are particular to the historic movement, documenting a concept of self which embodies principles of race-pride, self-help and solidarity,” Anderson said in a prepared statement.

Keeping those goals in mind, 5th and 6th graders from the DeKalb area got a chance to see the exhibition and participate in a workshop.

The workshop included learning about the exhibition, taking a self-portrait and making the frame around the picture.

Some of the objectives were to learn about photography as a vehicle for expressing feelings and ideas, illustrate cultural values, document historical moments, construct values, learn artistic expression and serve survival and cultural continuity.

“The goal presented in the exhibition is to use photography as an art form,” said Lynda Martin, director of the University Art Museum.

“The photographs tell a story. It keeps track of family history,” she said.

“We must recognize the African-American contribution to the arts,” Martin said.

At noon Thursday a dramatic dance performance will be presented by Bruce Edwards in the Museum. The music will be from the movie “The Color Purple” and admission is free.