Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick Calhoun
Practice: Documentary Photographers
Date of Lecture: 2007-10-19
Born in New Orleans in the 1950’s, Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick Calhoun have been chronicling the everyday life of the city’s Lower Ninth Ward for more than a quarter of a century. From documenting pleasure clubs to bluesman, clock-workers to churchgoers, the Calhouns have rooted their career in the process of capturing the vibrancy and culture of the neighbourhood they grew up in.
“We documented the soul of the city,” Calhoun said. “We documented vanishing Louisiana: the last of the sugar cane workers, the dock workers, the sweet potato harvesters. We dealt with the displacement of African-Americans throughout Louisiana.”
When Hurricane Katrina swept across the Gulf Coast in August 2005, Keith and Chandra would lose both their home and their historic storefront photography studio. In the aftermath of the storm, they salvaged what they could of their life’s work and began to rebuild. Many individuals and organizations—such as Architecture for Humanity, House by House, the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, and Shelter Architecture—are currently helping the couple to rebuild their home and studio, expanding it to include a gallery and archive.
The Calhouns have exhibited at the Aperture gallery in New York City, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, and the Brooklyn Museum. They have been featured in the landmark compilation Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers, 1840 to the Present by Deborah Willis and have appeared in Spike Lee’s 2006 documentary film When the Levees Broke.
Having been exiled from their home, they are currently living in a Houston, Texas suburb with their two children.
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