Syracuse University

01/18/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 01/17/2020 20:28

‘Black Subjects in Modern Media Photography’ Examines Complexity and Paradoxes of Black Visual Modernity

Louis B. Schlivek, 'Grand Central Bookstore,'circa 1956. George R. Rinhart Collection.

'Black Subjects in Modern Media Photography: Works from the George R. Rinhart Collection' is on display through March 13 at the Syracuse University Art Galleries in the Shaffer Art Building. The exhibition of 145 photographic images includes work by news photographers working for Underwood & Underwood Publishers, as well prints by noted artists Henri Leighton, Herbert Gehr, Charlotte Brooks and Carl Van Vechten.

Gallery hours are Tuesdays and Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The gallery is closed University holidays and Mondays.

On loan from the extensive George R. Rinhart Collection, one of the largest private collections in the nation, and curated by Joan Bryant, associate professor in African American studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, this presentation offers a glimpse of the complexity and paradoxes of black visual modernity.

As stated by Bryant: 'The exhibition is an occasion to consider what counts as a modern black image in the first half of the 20th century-a period marked by state-sponsored white supremacy, a growing push for black self-determination and equality, and technological changes that expanded the accessibility of photographs….I think the assortment points to divergent social currents that shaped American visual culture.'

A fully illustrated catalog with a scholarly essay by Bryant will accompany the exhibition, available in the galleries in February.

Bryant will present a lecture on the exhibition on Thursday, Jan. 30, at 5 p.m. in 204 Slocum Hall. The lecture will be followed by an opening reception, co-sponsored by the Syracuse University Humanities Center in the College of Arts and Sciences from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the SUArt Galleries. Patrons are welcome to view the exhibition until the gallery closes at 8 p.m. The lecture and reception are free and open to all. Visitors are encouraged to bring a donation of canned or dry goods to the events to be donated to the Hendricks Chapel Food Pantry.

Joan Bryant is associate professor and undergraduate studies director of the Department of African American studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. Bryant is author of the forthcoming book 'Reluctant Race Men: Black Opposition to the Practice of Race in 19th-Century America' (Oxford University Press). She previously co-curated the exhibition 'Black Utopias' in 2015 for Bird library. She is a scholar in American religious studies and researches the relation between race and religion in modern America.

Related programs

All programs are free and open to all. For parking information, visit

Lunchtime Lecture

'Black Subjects in Modern Media Photography' with exhibition curator Joan Bryant.

Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 12:15 p.m. in the gallery.

Film Program

Screening of 'Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People,' the first documentary to explore the role of photography in shaping the identity, aspirations, and social emergence of African Americans from slavery to the present.

Sunday, March 1, at 2 p.m. in Shemin Auditorium in the Shaffer Art Building.