Photographers on Bearden

a conversation with Frank Stewart & Chester Higgins, Jr.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022 at 6:30 PM ET

In celebration of the launch of the Romare Bearden Papers on the WPI Digital Archives, the WPI hosted a webinar featuring renowned photographers Frank Stewart and Chester Higgins, Jr., in a conversation moderated by Dalila Scruggs, Curator of Photography and Prints at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Photographers like Stewart and Higgins have created iconic portraits of Bearden which have become synonymous with the artist’s image. Forming part of the rich assortment of photographs available in the artist’s archives, they offer an exclusive look at Bearden at various moments in his career and provide a vital record of African American arts and letters in the 20th century.

Frank Stewart shot his first photographs at the 1963 March on Washington and has gone on to make compelling images ever since. Stewart earned a BFA in photography from Cooper Union in 1975 and counts Roy DeCarara, Garry Winogrand, Jack Whitten, and Romare Bearden amongst his mentors. Stewart was the first photographer-in-residence at The Studio Museum in Harlem, where he also taught photography. He has been a member of Kamoinge, Inc. since 1982, and was the lead photographer for Jazz at Lincoln Center almost three decades. Stewart is widely published, has had more than thirty solo exhibitions and is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards. His work is held in the collections of major museums including Bowdoin College Art Museum, Brunswick, Maine, the Detroit Institute of Arts; George Eastman House, Rochester, New York, the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the National Museum of African American Art and Culture, Washington, DC, and the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. Stewart is the subject of an upcoming retrospective titled, Nexus: An American Photographer’s Journey, 1960’s to the Present, that opens at the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, in June 2023.

Chester Higgins, Jr.  is a photographer known for his eloquent images of the life and culture of African Americans and the people of the African Diaspora. He counts P. H. Polk, Arthur Rothstein, Cornell Capa, Gordon Parks and Romare Bearden amongst his mentors. He was a staff photographer for the New York Times from 1975 to 2014. Widely published, his photographs have appeared in magazines including Ebony, Essence, Fortune, LIFE, Look, Newsweek, and TIME, and in several books including Sacred Nile, Echo of the Spirit and Elder Grace. His work has appeared in numerous solo exhibitions, most recently The Indelible Spirit at the Bruce Silverstein Gallery. He has received fellowships and grants  from the International Center of Photography, The Ford Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts and the Rockefeller Foundation. His photographs are included in the following permanent collections: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Richmond, the Library of Congress, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York.

Dalila Scruggs is Curator for Photography and Prints at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. She earned a Ph.D. in Art History from Harvard University, where she focused on African American art. She has held curatorial positions at the Williams College Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum, and served as the Brooklyn Museum’s Museum Education Fellowship Coordinator.

Bearden at Canal street Studio, 1977; Romare Bearden Papers [7fiw1l44], The Wildenstein Plattner Institute, Inc.
Photograph by © Frank Stewart. Courtesy of the photographer. All rights reserved.

Contact Sheet, Images of Bearden, undated; Romare Bearden Papers [o5ujj6mm], The Wildenstein Plattner Institute, Inc. Photographs by © Chester Higgins Jr. All rights reserved.
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