Barboza, Anthony 1944—
Anthony Barboza 1944—
Anthony Barboza has achieved both artistic and commercial success—a rare feat for any artist. Although he is best known for his advertising and fashion photography, Barboza is also a skilled painter and writer. Among his other callings is that of photography historian. He has an extensive collection of early works by pioneering black photographers. This diversity of interests is reflected in Barboza’s own photography, which makes use of a wide variety of techniques and subject matter.
Barboza was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1944, the eldest of eight sons. He became interested in photography as a teen, and in 1963, at the age of 19, he moved to New York City to begin studying it in earnest. At first, Barboza studied photography at night, while maintaining a day job as a messenger for the Hearst magazine group. After a short while, he met Hugh Bell, a well-known fashion photographer. Bell agreed to act as a mentor to Barboza, teaching him the subtleties of the fashion photography trade. Barboza was soon able to quit his job with Hearst and devote all of his energies to photography.
While he was learning about fashion photography from Bell, Barboza continued to attend commercial photography school. He also spent much of his free time on street photography. Soon Barboza became associated with a group of African American photographers who called themselves the Kamoinge Workshop, from the Kikuyu word for “group of people acting together.” The Workshop, led informally by Roy DeCarava, provided a forum for the discussion of photography from both a critical and philosophical standpoint. Barboza’s participation enabled him to more fully consider the role of African American photographers in society. At the same time, it afforded him criticism of his own artistic work outside the bounds of fashion or commercial photography.
Barboza joined the U.S. Navy in 1965. Stationed in Pensacola, Florida, he began working full-time for the base newspaper, where he honed his skills as an editorial photographer. He also continued his personal artistic
At a Glance…
Born May 10, 1944, in New Bedford, MA. Education: Studied with fashion photographer Hugh Bell, mid-1960s; participated in Kamoinge Workshop under Roy DeCarava, mid-1960s.
U.S. Navy, photographer, 1965–1968; free-lance photographer, 1969—. Collections at Howard University, Washington DC; Museum of Modern Art and Studio Museum in Harlem, New York City; and Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH. Solo exhibitions include Light Impressions Gallery, Rochester, NY, 1973; Light Gallery, New York City, 1974; Pensacola Art Museum, Pensacola, FL, 1977; and Studio Museum in Harlem, 1982. Group exhibitions include Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA, 1971; Columbia College, Chicago, IL, 1974; International Center of Photography, New York City, 1975; Museum of Modern Art, 1978; Witkin Gallery, New York City, 1979; jazzonia Gallery, Detroit, Ml, 1982; Muchner Stadtmuseum, Munich, West Germany, 1985; and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1990. Teaching positions include International Center of Photography, 1975 and 1983; Columbia College, 1984; and Rochester Institute of Technology, 1991.
Awards: Photography grants from New York State Council for the Arts, 1974 and 1976; Massachusetts State Council on the Arts, 1978; and National Endowment for the Arts, 1980.
work, which resulted in two one-man shows during his Navy years: one at the Pensacola Art Museum in 1966 and one at the University of Miami in 1967. Barboza served in the Navy until 1968. After his discharge he returned to New York City. Once back, he quickly established his first studio and embarked on his career as a commercial photographer.
Over the next decade, Barboza became one of the most sought-after fashion and advertising photographers in the city. His work graced billboards, buses, and covers of major magazines. Despite this success, though, Barboza continually faced discrimination in an industry where African Americans were still very rarely found in decision-making positions. In a 1982 interview, Barboza told Randolph Jimmy Rawlins of Black Enterprise, “The white art director believes the white photographer can shoot black people, but he seldom thinks a black photographer can shoot white people. Yet this society forces us to live in both their world and ours, something the white photographer does not experience.”
Throughout this period, Barboza’s commercial work fueled his artistic passions. His personal photographs drew from all of his interests, including poetry and music. Particularly influential was his love of jazz. In Introspect: The Photography of Anthony Barboza, the exhibition catalog of his one-man show at the Studio Museum in Harlem, Barboza remarked, “My life is totally integrated into my work. The pictures I take, the books I read, the music I listen to, the food I eat—they’re all part of the art form. Jazz musicians, such as [saxophonists] Omette Coleman, Charlie Parker, [and John] Coltrane and [pianist] Cecil Taylor, inspire me … and fill my life with what makes me feel good, in order to transcend the frustrations of the business.”
Barboza’s non-commercial work was shown in exhibitions throughout the 1970s, including one-man shows at the Light Impressions Gallery of Rochester New York in 1973, and at New York City’s Light Gallery in 1974. Group shows of the period were held at Chicago’s Columbia College in 1974, the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1978, and New York’s Witkin Gallery in 1979. In the early 1970s, Barboza began taking annual trips to Africa, where he concentrated on landscapes, incorporating both the people and terrain of the continent.
Portraiture became a major focus for Barboza around 1975. Over the next several years he took hundreds of portraits, starting out with close friends and eventually moving on to admired artists, intellectuals, and wellknown athletes. In his portrait work, Barboza has often been able to capture the personalities of his subjects, rather than merely recording their physical characteristics, In Introspect, he explained, “I am not showing them at their work, but showing their faces and bodies and other elements that indicate what their work might look like—to catch not the outward appearances, but the essences of their work.” Frequently Barboza designed and created his own backgrounds for these portraits, making use of his painting and other artistic skills.
In the 1980s, Barboza continued to exhibit his personal work in both individual and group shows, while maintaining his commercial pursuits. In 1980 he received a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, which enabled him to self-publish Black Borders, a book of 30 portraits taken during the previous five years. The Introspect show at the Studio Museum in Harlem opened in November of 1982. It featured three galleries of Barboza photographs, taken over a 20-year span. The pictures varied widely, from black-and-white shots of West African villages to color photos of Greenwich Village’s raucous annual Halloween parade.
Barboza also took his work to Europe during the 1980s. His photographs were exhibited at shows in Cologne, Germany, in 1982 and 1984, and in Munich in 1985. Over the next several years, Barboza also increased his teaching activities. Among the lecturing positions he took on during this period were posts at the International Center of Photography in New York in 1983; Columbia College in Chicago in 1984; and Rochester Institute of Technology in 1991.
Although Barboza has drawn his inspiration from a diverse assortment of sources, there is nothing formulaic about the resulting photographs. His commercial work contains an element of humor that is often not found in his fine art pieces. Barboza emphasized this point in a 1981 Camera Arts interview. “My ideas come from many places,” he said. “I might see a shape or an object that will suggest a scenario and write it down. I don’t plan too much and allow myself to be open to everything. I try to stay fresh and spontaneous because ideas become limp and die if they’re too premeditated.”
Black Borders, Anthony Barboza, 1980.
Barboza, Anthony, Black Borders, Anthony Barboza, 1980.
Introspect: The Photograph of Anthony Barboza, Studio Museum in Harlem, 1982.
Black Enterprise, February 1982, p. 72.
Camera, June 1980, p. 4.
Camera Arts, 1981.
35MM Photography, Spring 1977.
—Robert R. Jacobson
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