Heard on CultureShift

Black Is Beautiful” Exhibition at Detroit Institute of Arts Highlights 1960s Cultural Movement

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Image credit: Kwame Brathwaite

The work of photographer Kwame Brathwaite gets top billing via a traveling exhibition now on display at the Detroit Institute of Arts through January 2022.

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The large-scale photography of Kwame Brathwaite is now on display at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA).

The “Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite” exhibition is a touring show that first hit the road in 2019 and is now on display at the DIA through January 2022.

It includes more than 40 photos by Brathwaite, who used his camera as an activist tool to bring Black beauty into the mainstream in the 1960s. 


Listen: DIA curator of photography Nancy Barr breaks down the “Black Is Beautiful” exhibition.


Man smoking in a ballroom, Harlem, ca. 1962.Kwame Brathwaite
Kwame Brathwaite

Man smoking in a ballroom, Harlem, ca. 1962.

While many of the studio portraits he shot of Black models are in full, immersive color, another more intimate part of the show highlights Brathwaite’s love of photographing jazz performances in black-and-white. 

As a photographer-turned-fly on the wall in 1950s New York, Brathwaite photographed jazz legends like Miles Davis, Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln at a host of jazz clubs throughout the city.

You feel like you’re right there in the moment listening to that music,” says DIA curator of photography Nancy Barr. “[Brathwaite] has a way of really getting you to see things from his perspective.”

Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite” is on display at the Detroit Institute of Arts through January 2022. It’s free with admission. For more details, go to the DIA’s website.

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Ryan Patrick Hooper, Host, CultureShift

Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host and producer of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. As a longtime arts and culture reporter and photographer, Hooper has covered stories for NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.

hooper@wdet.org Follow @HooperRadio

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