Black Life Matters Feature of the Week: A Bit Of Life

By Candice Frederick
March 13, 2015
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Canoe racing, Niger Delta, Nigeria, 1969

Richard Saunders Collection
Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

In today's Exhibition Feature of the Week, Mary Yearwood , our in-house Curator of the Photographs and Prints Division, discusses the brilliance of renowned shutterbug Richard Saunders, and how he inspired her contribution to our newest exhibition, Curators' Choice: Black Life Matters:

“What matters to me are people and their feelings; above all it is the unconquerable dignity of man, of whatever color, creed or persuasion that must come through in my photographs.” —Richard Saunders

"This exhibition presents a mere introduction to photographer Richard Saundersʼs body of work. Although he photographed Africa for 20 years and Africana subjects for almost 50 years, his assignments and subjects were racially and ethnically diverse. This show focuses on his coverage of Africa and the African-American community, and offers a glimpse of some of the economic conditions, personalities, and social, political, and cultural happenings in portions of urban communities in Chicago, New York City, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C. from the 1940s to 1960s. We also see a sample of Saundersʼs more than 20-year coverage of new and developing African nations. Saunders portrayed his subjects with dignity and hope, regardless of their circumstances. His longtime editor at Topic magazine, Andrew Bardagjy, once stated, “If there is a Saunders style, it is to emphasize people, especially children. He often goes out of his way to include them in his photographs. His sensitivity to people is clearly evident in his photographs.”

The majority of the images on view here are being shown in the United States for the first time, while other images have never before been published. Our Richard Saunders Collection primarily consists of the United States Information Agencyʼs Topic magazine files—which were released to the Schomburg Center in 1991 by an act of the United States Congress—as well as Saundersʼs earlier work, with the exception of Our World magazine, Standard Oil, and Pittsburgh files. The total collection numbers several hundred thousand items and is the largest collection of Saundersʼs work extant. On the heels of the 175th anniversary of the announcement of the invention of photography and in conjunction with the Schomburg Collectionʼs 90th birthday, we salute photojournalist Richard Saunders."