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  • Writer's pictureAngela Ford

50 Years Later, Still Through Eyes of Blackness

Updated: 6 days ago

In 1973, four African American photographers and friends who created their own gallery presentation at the Southside Community Arts Center called Through Eyes of Blackness. What was unique about them is they were Black men who all worked for Chicago’s mainstream newspapers. Howard Simmons, Bob Black, John White and Ovie Carter decided to combine all of their images in one exhibit, providing no names, no credits and no explanations. The only facts provided where these are images “through eyes of Blackness.”

We had the honor of bringing them together to share their stories in an Artists Salon Talk called 50 Years Later, Still Through Eyes of Blackness. They have remained friends, they have remained photographers. Two of them, John White and Ovie Carter have won Pulitzer Prizes for their work as photojournalists. They chose to revisit the same location where they had this exhibit, The South Side Community Arts Center.

The conversation was riveting. One could hear a pin drop as these men recalled their very important role in recording our history for the ages.Ovie Carter very eloquently recalled how they were essentially First Responders. Bob Black recalled how he started working with the Chicago Sun-Times in March 1968 and Martin Luther King being assonated in April 1968. His actions immediately upon hearing the news led to timeless photos on the cover of the Sun-Times the next morning. Each of them gave us amazing glimpses into Black history. (Four photos by Antonio Dickey.)

The gentlemen got a chance to receive gratitude from many photographers of the next generation. These people entered the industry with them as mentors and/or role models of the importance of recording our history as photojournalists.

Because the venue is small, we filled the space with a curated audience. This Salon served as a preview of possibilities. The Obsidian Collection team was able to connect with more Chicago photographers and meet community thought leaders in person whom we only knew digitally through COVID. It was a great afternoon filled with love and laughter.

The goal of the event was to serve as a precursor to a larger exhibit in a larger space with a possible touring component. One of our grantors and one of our potential museum partners expressed desires to collaborate that day. We hope to work with these four titans of industry to bring their historic works to the public in the very near future.

If you want to hear more about their journey, listen to our Obsidian Stories Podcast Episode 4, Through Eyes of Blackness where we interviewed Howard Simmons.

You can also read about this event on their article in The Chicago Tribune. We made the placement above the fold on October 1, 2023!

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