Black Photographers

Man is the only picture-making animal in the world. He alone of all the inhabitants of the earth has the capacity and passion for pictures . . . Poets, prophets, and reformers are all picture-makers, and this ability is the secret of their power and achievements: they see what ought to be by the reflection of what is, and endeavor to remove the contradiction.

Orator Frederick Douglass wrote those words nearly two hundred years ago, but his keen understanding and promotion of the nascent medium of photography laid the foundation for the inextricable relationship between blacks and the camera. For a group of people who have been frequently represented by outsiders, black photographers have worked tirelessly to create their own vision of their communities and the world around them.

Material Life specializes in monographs and history by and about historic and contemporary black photographers, including hard-to-find and out-of-print titles. We try to be comprehensive but if there's a title or artist you're seeking that we don't have here, send us a message and we'll find it for you!


My White Friends by Myra Greene
Featured in The New York Times LENS blog, Greene's conceptual project captured readers' attention, resulting in a highly successful crowdfunding campaign that resulted in this provocative publication. My White Friends extends Myra Greene's 10-year exploration into photography's description of race. Images...
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Photo By Sammy Davis, Jr. by Burt Boyar
"A Zelig with a Rolleifex"—there was nothing Davis couldn't do, apparently. The greatest entertainer of the twentieth century was not only a master in front of the camera but behind it as well. From the author: My friend had begun taking...
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