Black Panthers

On Lensculture you can see a set of 31 images and a short text by Stephen Shames, The Black Panthers — 50 Year Anniversary. The pictures are a selection from the 200 black and white images by him in the recently published Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers by Bobby Seale with photographs by Shames.

Shames met and photographed Seale at an anti–Vietnam War rally in April 1967 and Seale became a mentor to the University of California student  who became the most trusted photographer to the party, remaining by Seale’s side through his campaign for mayor of Oakland in 1973.

The story of the Black Panthers is a remarkable one, not least for showing the illegal lengths that a white political establishment was prepared to go to maintain its racist supremacy, with military-style police attacks and a huge campaign of intimidation and assassination by the FBI.

Shames has produced many other fine projects and it’s worth spending time on his web site. In particular there are many pictures about child poverty and low income families and his work has been compared with that by Lewis Hine a hundred years earlier. As well as working with organisations involved in social issues he has also “started an NGO which locates forgotten children (AIDS orphans, former child soldiers, and children living in refugee camps) with innate talents and molds them into leaders by sending them to the best schools and colleges.”

Although most of his work has been concerned with the USA – which is perhaps why he is not well known in the UK, his essay Street Kids includes images from Brazil, Bangladesh, India, Romania and Honduras.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.