The Early Years of Rhythm and Blues: Photographs by Benny Joseph from theDocumentary Arts Collection

October 18, 2015 – January 10, 2016


The International Center of Photography at Mana presents photographs from an important recent donation of African American vernacular photography to the center by Documentary Arts. Organized by guest curator Alan Govenar, founder of the Documentary Arts, the exhibition consists of black-and-white prints by Houston photographer Benny Joseph (b. 1924) that trace the rise of rhythm and blues music in the 1950s and 1960s. Featuring portraits of such celebrated performers as B.B. King, Sam “Lightnin’” Hopkins, and Junior Parker, as well as non-R&B singers Mahalia Jackson and Della Reese, the exhibition also includes Joseph’s striking portraits of prominent African Americans of the same era, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, and Barbara Jordan.

Joseph’s prints are part of the 60,000-piece Texas African American Photography Archive (TAAP), Founded by Govenar and Kaleta Doolin, the centerpiece of more than 100,000 photographs, films, videos, audio recordings, and new media works donated to the ICP by Alan Govenar, founder of Documentary Arts. ICP’s acquisition of the Documentary Arts’ Collection is part of its substantial photography collection, which is located in a state-of-the-art 15,000-square foot facility at Mana Contemporary. The move to Mana earlier this year was undertaken to allow for the acquisition of additional large archives, such as TAAP, and their use in inventive digital projects in ICP's media lab.

(1) Benny Joseph, B.B. King at City Auditorium, Houston, 1962.
(2) Benny Joseph, Della Reese, Houston, n.d.
(3) Benny Joseph, Club Matinee, Houston, 1957.
All artwork © Benny Joseph, courtesy International Center of Photography.