This exhibition features 145 photographs from one of the largest private collections in the nation, offering a glimpse of the complexity and paradoxes of Black visual modernity. Pictures featuring varied themes—Cities, Politics, Work, Kinship, School, Religion, Leisure, Childhood, Colonies, and Portraits – welcome viewers to consider how people, places, and practices were presented as Black subjects to mass audiences via newspapers, magazines, documentary projects, libraries, and advertising. They raise questions such as how photographs composed Black subjects? How and to what extent did Black people present themselves as subjects in settings they chose to occupy, in venues they did not control, and in regimes that rendered them subject peoples? How do titles, captions, and frames limit or alter the focus and contexts of an image? Such inquiries engage a photograph’s capacity to convey meaning and invite new interpretations of what it meant to create, be, and see a modern Black subject.

Curated by Joan Bryant, associate professor of African American Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University.

Please note, this exhibition includes text and photographs that document inequality, racism, and violence. Experiencing such material might be challenging for some viewers. We present it with the aim of promoting historically-informed considerations of social relations and justice.