February 1st will mark the seventh edition of the annual “Observations in Black” photography exhibition in the city of Pasadena.
Every year during Black History Month, the city proudly plays host to displaying a collection of images relative to the San Gabriel Valley area that chronicle the presence, resiliency, and greatness of people of color in the community. From a voyeur fly-on-the-wall perspective that is reminiscent of the style of the legendary Gordon Parks, the 2023 edition continues in its effort to showcase a variety of black and white images that celebrate and illuminate the African American experience.
The exhibit is curated by its organizer, local photographer, Alfred Haymond. The aims of “Observations in Black” are to capture, document, and preserve our stories for posterity.
“Historical instances are occurring on a consistent basis here in the area, and these moments are significant and worthy of documenting,” proclaims the photographer.
“I’m merely using my camera as a preservation tool with the expectation that future generations will look back at this point in time many decades from now and study the footprints both great and small that we have left behind.”
From its inception in 2016, “Observations in Black” has sought to recognize the humanity, dignity, and perseverance through the eyes and expressions of its African American community in the greater Pasadena/Altadena locale.
Though demographically representative of less than 10% of the local population, the faces of the African American community are vast and deep. From personalities to pedestrians, young, old and everyone, everything in between, because they are all part of this tapestry, each with unique stories to tell. The mission of the photography exhibition is to visually illuminate those narratives.
“In my head, I feel a sense of responsibility to authentically tell our stories in the images I present, and hopefully the conversations, and exchanges that are generated will inspire others, and certain of those photos will become iconic.”
When asked about the factors which influenced him to even organize a photography exhibit, Alfred recalls, “I had already been living in the area several years and on occasion would check out the various events that were scheduled during Black History Month and noticed that photography was markedly absent from the itinerary. I did a little reconnaissance with local organizations, committees, and people within the community. I figured I could put something together artistically that might spark some interest and at the same time have credibility and longevity.
“I already had hundreds of assorted photographs collected over the years from various citywide events I shot that was sitting in my archives and figured that a public exhibit would be an ideal situation to present them. It was never a question of can I do this or not? It was more a realization of, I’ve found my lane, no one is in my way, and I should run with it!”
In 2016, the first incarnation of the “Observations in Black” photography exhibit saw with a collection of 25 final images that were whittled down from an initial assortment of over 700.
“Early on, I learned a lot about display presentation, program theme, room layout, placement, and aesthetics that are part of the overall gallery experience. Some of those lessons were hard knocks, some were friendly suggestions, and others were based on space and time limitations.”
Ever the visual storyteller, the images that comprise the work are introspective, haunting, and compelling. Drawing on influences from creative greats both integral and independent of the photography world, Alfred Haymond manages to find his voice and vision.
In his own words, Alfred explains, “Black and white is my medium of choice. I shoot in color, but black and white are just where my head is at. It has a way of articulating a picture that instantly pulls the viewer into the image. I’m inspired by the life and works of people like James Baldwin, Marvin Gaye, Maya Angelou, Gil Scot Heron, John Coltrane, Langston Hughes, and Walter Mosley to name but a few. If their words and music were to be translated into photographs, I’d tend to think, that’s probably what my photographs look like.”
A self-taught camera buff and accomplished photographer, Alfred Haymond is a member of the Pasadena Society of Artists, Open Studios Pasa-Altadena, Burbank Art Association, and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. His work has been lauded and published in periodicals, appears in a book of collected poetry, and has been presented in numerous exhibitions regionally.
In addition to resuming a regular pre-Covid schedule of exhibits and installations, the Los Angeles native/Inglewood-reared creative artist is currently preparing a photo retrospective this Spring of the 2020 Summer/Fall civil unrest witnessed in the city of Pasadena in the wake of the national George Floyd, and local Anthony McClain police officer involved incidents. The first photo book in an anthology series of selected images is slated for release later in the year.
Observations in Black runs February 1st through 28th with a reception scheduled for Thursday, February 9th at 6 p.m., at the Hastings Branch Library, located at 3325 E. Orange Grove Blvd., in Pasadena.