Work I'd never seen - by a photographer I did not know - was featured yesterday on the NYT Lens blog. Turns out Gordon Stettinius is the head honcho of the project (and has been working for a year now) to preserve and promote the archives of photographer Louis Draper. Photography lovers have been treated to some brilliant work by previously "undiscovered" image makers these past few years. I'm so happy to learn about yet another wonderful surprise.
Check out the Lens blog post here.
The following few paragraphs, written by Gordon, give a brief introduction to the project:
I want to write a few words about how excited I am to be working for the preservation trust of photographer Louis Draper. Last week, I and two of my interns went to Charlottesville to remove all of Draper’s work from the special collections at University of Virginia’s Alderman Library. I had to borrow a Chevrolet Battleship (a.k.a. a Suburban) for the task as this is a fairly large archive including papers, manuscripts, lessons, photo equipment alongside of the many boxes of prints and collected works and binders full of negatives and slides. But we now have moved the work safely to Candela’s offices and are beginning this week to create an accurate inventory and to work on preliminary edits of the work.
This is a story that is going to take a long slow while to tell but over the coming months we are going to try to share our experience of discovering and preserving Mr. Draper’s photography and we are going to do what we can to get the word out about this incredible individual. A native Richmonder, Draper moved to New York City in 1957 and, as a young photographer, was a peer to many important figures from New York’s cultural and artistic scenes and eventually became an innovator, educator, as well as a Civil Rights activist. In short, we hope to bring some long overdue recognition to a man who spent his life refining and sharing his knowledge of photography. And it should prove to be exciting for anyone with an interest in 20th c. photography or the Civil Rights movement or photography or New York City photographers or Harlem in particular, or any of a dozen other visual and aesthetic threads that can be found in such an expansive life’s work.
Earlier this year, I met Mrs. Nell Draper-Winston, and her associate, Cheryl Pelt, as they had hoped that I might have interest in looking at the work of Mrs. Winston’s brother Louis, who had passed away in 2002. Since I had published Gita Lenz in 2010, I understood a little about what it meant to work with an extensive photography archive. And to be honest, that project of publishing Gita’s work was a both a personal journey and a major learning experience for me. So I entered the initial conversations with Mrs. Winston with the idea that I might help out if I was able but I wasn’t sure I would be able to take on any kind of active role as a direct representative. I have been offered the opportunity to review a few other photographer’s estates since publishing Gita Lenz but had not, until now, really been excited to the point where I was called to get involved myself.
Upon viewing a selection of prints that Mrs. Winston had in her personal collection and beginning to research the span of Draper’s career, from his being a founding member of Kamoinge – a forum dedicated to African-American photographers – to having been a friend and neighbor of Langston Hughes while living in Harlem, to his work documenting Civil Rights issues from the 1960s forward, to his travels abroad to Russia and Senegal and elsewhere. Basically, that first meeting to discuss Draper’s career extended to several longer conversations until I had to admit that I was really enthusiastic about the possibilities found within this work. This is really an exciting research project and for that I want to simply say thanks to Mrs. Winston and Mrs. Pelt for the opportunity to work with them on the Louis Draper preservation trust.
- Gordon Stettinius, November, 2012
These images are some of my favorites (for now, that is). They are amazing and wonderful and are inspiring the heck out of me. Keep your eyes peeled for more and more of Louis Draper's work. You can follow the progress made by Gordon and his team here.