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Light & Dark

Portraits Of Distinguished African Americans

February–March 2019

Underwood & Underwood, Booker T. Washington, ​1906. Subject is seated at a desk, writing and looking down.

1. Underwood & Underwood, Booker T. Washington, 1906

Doris Ulmann, James Weldon Johnson, ​c. 1925. Subject is seated at a desk, writing and looking to the left.

2. Doris Ulmann, James Weldon Johnson, c. 1925

Carl Van Vechten, Langston Hughes, ​1932. Subject poses looking to the left beside a painting with the figure in the same pose.

3. Carl Van Vechten, Langston Hughes, 1932

David Attie, Lorraine Hansberry, ​c. 1960. Subject poses leaning against a desk with a close-up photograph of herself superimposed on the wall in the background.

4. David Attie, Lorraine Hansberry, c. 1960

Carl Van Vechten, Paul Robeson, ​1933. Subject smiles to the camera with torso facing left, a reflective material hangs to the left of the frame.

5. Carl Van Vechten, Paul Robeson, 1933

Wayne F. Miller, Willard Motley, ​1947. Subject looks into camera while holding a tall stack of papers.

6. Wayne F. Miller, Willard Motley, 1947

Anthony Barboza, James Baldwin, Author, ​1975. Subject stands to the left side of a square frame, looking down and to the left. His shadow is cast to the right on the wall behind him.

7. Anthony Barboza, James Baldwin, Author, 1975

Flip Schulke, Martin Luther King, Jr. Preaching at Ebenezer Baptist Church, ​1963. Subject is blurred in motion with hands gesturing in front of him.

8. Flip Schulke, Martin Luther King, Jr. Preaching at Ebenezer Baptist Church, 1963

Carl Van Vechten, Leontyne Price in Porgy & Bess, ​1953. Subject poses against a curtain with hands on hips, looking to the camera.

9. Carl Van Vechten, Leontyne Price in Porgy & Bess, 1953

Carl Van Vechten, Avon Long as Sporting Life, Porgy & Bess, ​1942. Subject in a seated pose with legs crossed and hands on knee, looking down and to the right.

10. Carl Van Vechten, Avon Long as Sporting Life, Porgy & Bess, 1942

Carl Van Vechten, Geoffrey Holder, ​1954. Subject poses shirtless with one hand raised by his face, eyes cast downward.

11. Carl Van Vechten, Geoffrey Holder, 1954

Lucien Walery, Feral Benga Diptych, ​c. 1925. Two side by side photos of the shirtless subject, poses are facing each other.

12. Lucien Walery, Feral Benga Diptych, c. 1925

Lucien Walery, Josephine Baker, c. 1925. Subject poses seated, topless, in large jewelry and feathers.

13. Lucien Walery, Josephine Baker, c. 1925

Alfredo Valente, Katherine Dunham, ​c. 1940. Subject is photographed leaning on one arm, looking into the camera.

14. Alfredo Valente, Katherine Dunham, c. 1940

Florence Homolka, Sammy Davis, Jr., ​c. 1960. Subject is blurred with motion, facing left and holding a microphone on a dark stage.

15. Florence Homolka, Sammy Davis, Jr., c. 1960

Florence Homolka, Sammy Davis, Jr., ​c. 1950. Subject faces left with head down on a dark stage.

16. Florence Homolka, Sammy Davis, Jr., c. 1950

Bob Willoughby, Louis Armstrong, ​1950. Subject is seen smiling in a mirror reflection, head turned to the right.

17. Bob Willoughby, Louis Armstrong, 1950

Gjon Mili, Pearl Primus, ​c. 1943. Subject crouches with eyes closed to the right of the foreground, while two male musicians look to her while playing drums in the background.

18. Gjon Mili, Pearl Primus, c. 1943

Bob Willoughby, Miles Davis, Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, CA, ​1950. Subject stands on stage playing the trumpet in front of a piano and other accompanying musicians.

19. Bob Willoughby, Miles Davis, Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, CA, 1950

Bob Willoughby, Lionel Hampton on Vibes, ​1956. Subject looks down while striking his instrument with another musician in the foreground.

20. Bob Willoughby, Lionel Hampton on Vibes, 1956

Flip Schulke, Harry Belafonte, ​c. 1960. Subject stands on stage behind a microphone, smiling out towards his audience and the camera.

21. Flip Schulke, Harry Belafonte, c. 1960

Bob Willoughby, Dorothy Dandridge, ​c. 1955. Subject is seated on a wooden crate backstage on film set, looking to the right.

22. Bob Willoughby, Dorothy Dandridge, c. 1955

Wallace Seawell, Nat King Cole, ​c. 1955. Subject is seated in a white suit at the piano in front of a mirror, gesturing and smiling towards the camera.

23. Wallace Seawell, Nat King Cole, c. 1955

Chuck Stewart, Duke Ellington, ​1955. Subject smiles with eyes cast to the right, with one arm raised in front of his chest to reveal a heart-shaped cufflink.

24. Chuck Stewart, Duke Ellington, 1955

Gordon Coster, Leadbelly, ​c. 1940. Subject holds a guitar and looks into the camera with a serious expression.

25. Gordon Coster, Leadbelly, c. 1940

Wayne F. Miller, Billy Eckstine, ​1948. Subject is seated, smiling, at a club table with two other figures. A woman sings on stage in the background.

26. Wayne F. Miller, Billy Eckstine, 1948

Carl Van Vechten, Dizzy Gillespie, ​1955. Subject is seated with arms crossed, smiling with eyes cast down to the left.

27. Carl Van Vechten, Dizzy Gillespie, 1955

Anthony Barboza, Grace Jones, ​c. 1970. Close up of the subject's face looking into the camera.

28. Anthony Barboza, Grace Jones, c. 1970

Wallace Seawell, Diana Ross & The Supremes, ​1967. The three subjects pose in sparkling dresses against a striped wall with white balloons.

29. Wallace Seawell, Diana Ross & The Supremes, 1967

Anthony Barboza, Roberta Flack, Singer, ​c. 1970. Close up of subject's face with eyes closed and mouth slightly open.

30. Anthony Barboza, Roberta Flack, Singer, c. 1970

Bob Willoughby, Lionel Hampton, ​1956. Subject is seated at a drumset on the right side of the frame, facing left and smiling.

31. Bob Willoughby, Lionel Hampton, 1956

Alfredo Valente, Ethel Waters, ​c. 1939. Subject looks up and to the right in a supplicating gesture with hands clasped by her chest.

32. Alfredo Valente, Ethel Waters, c. 1939

Carl Van Vechten, Joe Louis, ​1941. Subject is in profile facing left, outdoors in direct sunlight.

33. Carl Van Vechten, Joe Louis, 1941

Carl Van Vechten, Henry Armstrong, ​1937. Subject holds a boxing pose in front of a reflective backdrop.

34. Carl Van Vechten, Henry Armstrong, 1937

Flip Schulke, Ali Underwater, ​1961. Subject holds a boxing pose, pictured in profile at the bottom of a swimming pool.

35. Flip Schulke, Ali Underwater, 1961

David Attie, Ralph Ellison in Harlem, ​1966. Subject poses on the street beside a barber shop, looking into the camera as various figures move around him.

36. David Attie, Ralph Ellison in Harlem, 1966

United Press Photo, A Pitcher of Willie, ​1958. Subject holds his baseball bat at the ready as a baseball (out of focus in the foreground) flies toward him.

37. United Press Photo, A Pitcher of Willie, 1958

Flip Schulke, Little Willie John's 'Fever,' ​1956. Subject is photographed from above sitting on the hood of a car, smiling up at the camera.

38. Flip Schulke, Little Willie John's 'Fever,' 1956

Charlotte Brooks, Fats Domino, c. 1960. Subject sings into a microphone, blurred with motion, facing right.

39. Charlotte Brooks, Fats Domino, c. 1960

Bob Willoughby, Folksinger Odetta, Tin Angel Nightclub, San Francisco, Calif., USA, ​1954. Subject sits holding a guitar and singing on stage in front of a piano marked "The Tin Angel"

40. Bob Willoughby, Folksinger Odetta, Tin Angel Nightclub, San Francisco, Calif., USA, 1954

Florence Homolka, Josephine Baker, ​c. 1958. Subject is pictured seated and smiling, looking off to the right.

41. Florence Homolka, Josephine Baker, c. 1958

George Hoyningen-Huene, Josephine Baker, ​c. 1929. Subject crosses her eyes and wears large hoop earrings, resting her chin on a black piece of furniture.

42. George Hoyningen-Huene, Josephine Baker, c. 1929

Alfredo Valente, Paul Robeson, 'Othello,' ​1939. Subject looks to the left with a serious expression.

43. lfredo Valente, Paul Robeson, 'Othello,' 1939

Bob Willoughby, Big Jay McNeely, ​1951. Subject lays on stage mid-performance, playing the saxophone while emotional fans look on.

44. Bob Willoughby, Big Jay McNeely, 1951

Press Release

Keith de Lellis Gallery presents a group exhibition of portraits depicting distinguished African American figures of the 20th century. Included are famed musicians, actors, writers, boxers, and more. These artists were photographed by noted documentary and portrait photographers, including Flip Schulke, Chuck Stewart, Carl Van Vechten, and David Attie.


While some photographs are immediately recognizable, such as Schulke’s Ali Underwater, others may be unfamiliar. Lesser-known photographs of Sammy Davis Jr., Booker T. Washington, and other figures offer a new perspective on these familiar faces. The group of studio and environmental portraits range from formally composed sittings to dynamic action shots. Bob Willoughby’s image of Lionel Hampton mid-concert captures the energy and joy of the performer fully absorbed in his music. An equal energy emits from a passionate scene in which Martin Luther King Jr. delivers a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church, photographed by Flip Schulke. Conversely, Chuck Stewart’s studio portrait of Duke Ellington shows a calm yet playful subject wearing his heart (in the form of cufflinks) on his sleeve.

The images also dramatically range in scale, from Van Vechten’s intimate postcards to Barboza’s striking exhibition prints. A small Underwood portrait of Booker T. Washington invites the viewer to look closely at the studious man at work, the format suggesting a cabinet card of sorts. Barboza’s large, close-cropped portraits of Roberta Flack and Grace Jones give the observer the opportunity to focus on the details of their dimly-lit faces.


The photographers share an array of personalities and experiences through these portraits. The dignity, elegance, and commitment to their craft of those pictured is palpable in these exceptional photographs.


Light & Dark will be on view at the Keith de Lellis Gallery through March 21, 2019.