This month, we are pleased to present the work of Chester Higgins, Jr., a prolific, New York–based photographer. A premier artist whose vision captures the majesty and range of the African diaspora, he documents with an eye to high art—with work that transcends mere image and approaches performance.
Higgins is a graduate of Tuskegee University. He studied with photographer P.H. Polk and was mentored by Arthur Rothstein, Cornell Capa, and Gordon Parks. His artist’s eye was clearly nurtured by his eight-year association with Romare Bearden.
Chester Higgins spent nearly forty years at the New York Times as a resident artist and staff photographer . He is also an author and public speaker. He is represented by the Peter Fetterman Gallery, Santa Monica, CA. and has shown his work throughout the US and Europe in solo exhibitions in art galleries and academic venues. Having published close to a dozen books including Elder Grace: The Nobility of Aging in November 2000 and Echo of the Spirit: A Photographer’s Journey, in October 2004, his work has recently been included in It’s Been Beautiful: Soul! and Black Power Television by Gayle Wald. The public television show conceived and hosted by Ellis Haizlip, “Soul!” featured music and culture of Black America. Higgins’ images anchor the book and bring the text to life with images of Gladys Knight, the group Labelle, and a young, talented magician named Arsenio Hall, among others. This latest book shows yet another side to Chester Higgins’ artistic journey.
In his own words:
“Wrestling with issues of memory, place and identity, I see my life as a narrative and my photography as its expression. My art gives visual voice to my personal and collective memories. It is inside ordinary moments where I find windows into larger meaning. Light, perspective, and points in time are the pivotal elements I use to reveal an interior presence within my subjects as I search for what I identify as the Signature of the Spirit.”
His website, www.chesterhiggins.com, leads us to his Mission Statement, excerpted here:
“The camera offered a way to document my point of view. So I set out to make my own pictures and then to get them published. This grew into a life-long mission—to show the decency, dignity, and virtuous character of people of African descent. This has never precluded my making photographs of all kinds of people. I do. In fact, a recent project harks back to my original passion to document the wisdom that I saw in my older relatives. This project, called Elder Grace: The Nobility of Aging, is again about capturing what I was not seeing. In our society, elders when not being ignored are too often portrayed as frail, ill or in some way compromised—in short, an unwelcome burden. So I made a conscious decision to show others what I feel is missing in our society’s attitude toward its eldest members. Aging is a blessing. I believe that aging gracefully can become a work of art… “
Chester Higgins chose twenty-one works that we feature in our portfolio:
An interview (“My Soul Flies Home to Africa”) with Brian Lehrer of CUNY-TV and WNYC:
More recently, Mr. Higgins was interviewed by Carol Jenkins.