Keynote Presentation with Chandra McCormick & Keith Calhoun
New Orleans Museum of Art
Thursday, Dec 12, 2019
Free and open to the public | Please RSVP
Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick have documented Louisiana and its people for more than 40 years. Partners in art and in life, their linked careers have focused on documenting African American experiences in New Orleans and the surrounding Louisiana parishes, with a longstanding commitment to socially engaged art. Their work spans the music culture of New Orleans, river baptisms in rural Louisiana, and African American laborers. As proponents of social activism through photography, Calhoun and McCormick have been granted rare access inside the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola beginning in the 1980s and continuing to today, resulting in their series titled Slavery: The Prison Industrial Complex.
For the PhotoNOLA 2019 keynote presentation, Chandra McCormick and Keith Calhoun will present an overview of their four decades in photography, sharing stories about the influences, personalities, and ideas that have shaped their life and work.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick were born and raised in the lower ninth ward of New Orleans, Louisiana. As husband and wife team, they have been documenting Louisiana and its people for more than 40 years. Calhoun and McCormick have documented the soul of New Orleans and a vanishing Louisiana: the last of the sugar cane workers, the dockworkers, the sweet potato harvesters, and the displacement of African Americans after Katrina. In New Orleans, they have documented the music culture, which consists of Brass Bands, Jazz Funerals, Social and Pleasure Clubs, Benevolent Societies, and the Black Mardi Gras Indians. They photograph the traditions of black church services and religious rituals; community rites and celebrations, such as parades, and jazz funerals; and the cruel conditions of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, a former slave-breeding plantation named for the African nation from which “the most profitable” slaves, according to slave owners, were kidnapped.
Working collaboratively, they have created several photographic series, including: Louisiana Laborers; The Dock Worker, Longshoreman, and Freight Handlers on the docks of New Orleans; Sugar Cane Field Scrappers in the river parishes along the Mississippi river; Cotton Gins, and Sweet Potato Workers in East Carrol parish of Lake Providence Louisiana. In the early 1980s they began a body of work they call Slavery: The Prison Industrial Complex, which continues today. The series serves as both historical record and testimony of life at the Angola penitentiary, also called “The Farm”. Their work sheds light on the “criminal justice” system, of forced labor under the guns of white men on horseback, in Louisiana’s Angola state prison. Calhoun and McCormick’s work restores visibility and humanity to a population often forgotten by the public at large.
Calhoun and McCormick’s images have been published in Aperture magazine, in online features for The New Yorker, and National Geographic Magazine, and are included in the book, Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers, 1840 to the Present. They have exhibited internationally at venues including the Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Museum, Washington, DC; the Brooklyn Museum; the Louisiana State Museum; The Peace Museum in Chicago; the New Orleans Museum of Art; Prospect.3 / Ogden Museum of Southern Art; the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans; and the Venice Biennial.
Museum doors open at 6pm, and the presentation begins at 6:30pm in the auditorium. McCormick and Calhoun will sign copies of their book Louisiana Medley in the Museum Shop following the lecture.
Image credit: Chandra McCormick – Playing Cards, Bessie K Plantation in Vacherie LA, 1985