Arts

Library of Congress buys the collection of Shawn Walker and the Kamoinge Workshop

Shawn Walker

The Library of Congress has purchased the archives of Shawn Walker, including his collection of photos, ephemera, and audio recordings, representing the influential Kamoinge Workshop based in Harlem.

The materials will join the Library’s other important collections of photography by African Americans, including Gordon Parks, Robert McNeill, Roland Freeman, Dawoud Bey, and Roy DeCarava, Walker’s mentor.
The Kamoinge Workshop, which was founded in 1963 in New York City, is a collective of leading African American photographers, including Anthony Barboza, Louis Draper, Adger Cowans, Albert Fenner, Ray Francis, Toni Parks, Herb Robinson, Beuford Smith, and Ming Smith.
The Kamoinge was founded in response to the racial discrimination of black photographers by the mainstream press.
Kamoinge in Gikuyu, the language of the Kikuyu people of Kenya, means a group of people acting and working together.
Walker, a founding member, is Kamoinge’s archivist. The archive contains nearly 100,000 photographs, negatives and transparencies depicting life in Harlem beginning from 1963 to the present.
The Kamoinge collection, donated by Walker, consists of nearly 2,500 prints by Barboza, Smith, Draper, and others.
Walker’s photographs include daily life, city streets, parades and celebrations, poverty, drug use and policing.
He has photographed black political leaders, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, Academy Award winner Spike Lee and Nobel prize-winning author Toni Morrison.
He has also photographed across the United States and throughout the world, including Cuba, Guyana, Nigeria, Senegal, and Mexico.
“I have tried to document the world around me, particularly the African American community, especially in Harlem from an honest perspective so that our history is not lost,” Walker said.
The Shawn Walker Photography Archive will become part of the Prints and Photographs collection at the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library. After the collection is further organized it will be available for research.
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