Separate, But Equal: The Mississippi Photographs of Henry Clay Anderson
Steven Kasher Gallery, in collaboration with Charles Schwartz and Shawn Wilson, is pleased to mount Separate, But Equal: The Mississippi Photographs of Henry Clay Anderson, the first ever exhibition of the photographs of Henry Clay Anderson (1911- 1998). The show will include over 70 vintage prints, as well as the camera and other artifacts from Anderson’s studio. The Anderson archive is being offered for sale intact as a single lot. Several images are being offered as limited edition modern prints.
Henry Clay Anderson was a professional photographer who lived and worked in Greenville, Mississippi, establishing Anderson Photo Service in Greenville in 1948. Throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s he was called upon to photograph every aspect of his relatively prosperous African-American community. With great tact and warmth, Anderson recorded the daily lives of the men and women who built the Greenville schools, churches, and hospitals that served their segregated society. He photographed family gatherings, weddings, funerals, sports events, and proms. He photographed nightclub musicians, itinerant entertainers, and a wide range of professionals at work. His work had strong political overtones, especially when he shot events related to the Civil Rights Movement.
Anderson’s work constitutes a unique treasure. These rediscovered black and white photographs document a virtually ignored chapter in African-American history, that of the proud, dignified community of middle-class African-Americans that existed throughout the South during the Civil Rights Movement. They intimately portray a community of black Southerners who considered themselves first-class citizens despite living in a deeply hostile America.
These portraits are historical documents, but also works of art. They bear comparison to the Southern portraits of Mike Disfarmer, to the Mali portraits of Seydou Keita, and to the Harlem portraits of James Van Der Zee.
New York filmmaker Shawn Wilson returned to his hometown of Greenville in 1997 to meet Anderson, to look into a portrait he had made of Wilson’s mother when she was a young. The result of that visit was a friendship, and the bequeathing of Anderson’s archive to Wilson. After Anderson’s death, Wilson teamed up with photography collector and dealer Charles Schwartz to preserve, organize, and present the thousands of prints and negatives. In 2002 they organized the publication of the book Separate But Equal: The Mississippi Photographs of Henry Clay Anderson (New York: PublicAffairs, 2002).