Ming Smith’s poetic and experimental images are icons of twentieth-century African American life.
One of the greatest artist-photographers working today, Smith moved to New York in the 1970s and began to make images charged with startling beauty and spiritual energy. This long-awaited monograph brings together four decades of Smith’s work, celebrating her trademark lyricism, distinctively blurred silhouettes, dynamic street scenes, and deep devotion to theater, music, poetry, and dance—from the “Pittsburgh Cycle” plays of August Wilson to the Afrofuturism of Sun Ra. With never-before-seen images, and a range of illuminating essays and interviews, this tribute to Smith’s singular vision promises to be an enduring contribution to the history of American photography.
Copublished by Aperture and Documentary Arts
Ming Smith was born in Detroit and raised in Columbus, Ohio. A self-taught artist and former model, in the 1970s, she published her early work in The Black Photographers Annual. Smith’s work has been collected by and presented in major museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York; Brooklyn Museum; National Museum of African American History and Culture, and National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC; and Serpentine Galleries, and Tate Modern, London. Beginning in 2017, her work was included in the celebrated traveling exhibitions We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965 – 85 and Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, as well as in Arthur Jafa’s exhibition A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions, which traveled from London to Berlin, Prague, Stockholm, and Porto, Portugal. In 2019, Smith’s solo exhibition with Jenkins Johnson Gallery was awarded the Frieze Stand Prize at Frieze New York. Smith lives and works in New York.
Emmanuel Iduma is a writer based in Lagos, Nigeria, and New York. A contributor to publications, including Aperture, the New York Review of Books, BOMB, and British Journal of Photography, he is the author of The Sound of Things to Come (2016) and A Stranger’s Pose (2018). He was associate curator for the inaugural Nigerian Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale.
Janet Hill Talbert is a jewelry designer and former book editor living in New York. A publishing industry veteran who spent more than two decades as an editor, Talbert served as vice president at Doubleday and founded the African American book imprint Harlem Moon.
M. Neelika Jayawardane is associate professor of English at the State University of New York at Oswego, and research associate at the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre, University of Johannesburg. Her work has appeared in Aperture, Frieze, and Al Jazeera English, among other publications, and she is a founding member of Africa Is a Country.
Namwali Serpell is author of the novel The Old Drift (2019) and has written for the New Yorker, New York Review of Books, n+1, and the Guardian, among other publications. She is associate professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley.
Greg Tate is a Harlem-based writer and musician. A former staff writer at the Village Voice, his writing has been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Artforum, and in monographs and essays about Wangechi Mutu, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Kehinde Wiley. He is the author of several books, including Flyboy 2: The Greg Tate Reader (2016).
Arthur Jafa is a multidisciplinary artist and cinematographer and cofounder of motion picture studio TNEG. He was awarded the Golden Lion at the 2019 Venice Biennale for his film The White Album. For his work on Daughters of the Dust (1991), he won the Cinematography Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
Hans Ulrich Obrist is a curator, critic, and historian based in London, and artistic director of the Serpentine Galleries, London. He is the author of The Interview Project, an ongoing archive of recorded interviews, and coeditor of Cahiers d’Art.
Yxta Maya Murray is professor of law at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, and author of the forthcoming novel Art Is Everything. Her work has appeared in Aperture, Artforum, Glamour, and ZYZZYVA. She is recipient of a Whiting Award and an American Society of Magazine Editors Award for Fiction.