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Available Light

In the mid-to-late 20th century, there were a number of remarkably talented African American photographers working in Louisville, doing a wide range of work: photojournalism for African American newspapers like the Louisville Defender (and for the Courier-Journal after it integrated its photojournalism staff in 1968), fine art photography, portrait photography, street photography, nightclub photography, and a wide range of other work. Their work is significant both for what they documented—the fabric of daily life in the African American community in the West End—and for the technical excellence with which they documented it. Yet much of at work is currently sitting in basements and garages, in danger of being lost forever.
“Available Light” is an intensive effort to preserve the photographic histories of African American life in Louisville, in close collaboration with numerous African American photographers who worked in Louisville in the era of black and white film photography. Their work is significant both for what they documented—the fabric of daily life in the African American community in west Louisville—and for the technical excellence with which they documented it. Yet much of at work is currently sitting in basements and garages, in danger of being lost forever.
We will work closely with these photographers to preserve and contextualize a remarkable body of work that documents places, experiences, people, and events to which many thousands of Louisvillians have a connection. We will achieve the following outcomes: (1) locate, scan, and preserve thousands of photo negatives and prints that have not yet been archived for posterity; (2) publish a highly professional book of community history through the lens of participants’ life experiences and photography; (3) draw at least 400 people to the book launch event; (4) organize a significant photography exhibit; and (5) produce a companion radio story with WFPL.

Funded by Louisville, KY (March 2017)