Few photographers had the insider access Oakland native Jeffrey Henson Scales did around the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s. Capturing intimate portraits and protest images of the organization and its leaders in a time of societal upheaval, Scales’s archive lay dormant and forgotten for 40 some years. Then in 2018, when his mother died and the contents of the family home were sorted, the negatives were discovered.
Join Jeffrey Henson Scales for a celebration of his book and book signing of “In A Time of Panthers”, early photographs by Jeffrey Henson Scales, to be held on September 28th at Claire Oliver Gallery.
Fast forward to today’s national racial justice dialogues, the death of several Black men at the hands of police and vigilantes, and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. “A new urgency to these images and the original Civil Rights Movement takes root in context of today’s ongoing struggle for racial justice,” Scales said about the trove of historical material. “These images serve as a time capsule of sorts, not only of my adolescence and political awakening, but also for the country whose ongoing struggle with racial inequality, police brutality and resistance is as urgent and timely as ever.”
What’s astonishing is that all the photos in this historically important book were made by a kid who was 13 when he started and 16 when he moved on to other photographic topics. That young guy delivered a pro photographer performance! — David Hume Kennerly, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist and former chief official White House photographer for President Gerald R. Ford.
The seed of Jeffrey’s art was a budding insight, sprouting in him at age 14 and leading him to photograph the realities of Black American life. This was not just a child’s pastime — it was the beginning of a life’s work. Purpose. — Ericka Huggins, Black Panther Party member, educator, abolitionist, and co-author, with Stephen Shames, of Comrade Sisters: Women of The Black Panther Party.
It’s hard to believe that this stunning archive preserving the work of a young emerging photographer was lost for some 40 years. — Dr. Deborah Willis, from the book’s foreword.
Jeffrey Henson Scales grew up in Berkeley and, as a son of activists, became known in and around Panther circles in the 1960s. His documentary photographs have been exhibited at museums throughout the United States and Europe and have appeared in numerous photography magazines, books, and anthologies. His photographs are in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The City Museum of New York, The George Eastman House, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Weisman Museum of Art, Minneapolis, Newfields at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and The Baltimore Museum of Art. A one-person major exhibition, Pictures from America, sponsored by The Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York, traveled throughout the United States from 1996 to 2001.
Henson Scales is also an award-winning New York Times editor who curates the paper’s photography column, “Exposures,” and is co-editor of the annual Year in Pictures special section and is a professor of photojournalism at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Dr. Deborah Willis is an artist, author, and curator. Her art and pioneering research has focused on cultural histories envisioning the black body, women, and gender. She is a celebrated photographer, acclaimed historian of photography, MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellow, and University Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.
Willis received the NAACP Image Award in 2014 for her co-authored book Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery (with Barbara Krauthamer) and in 2015 for the documentary Through a Lens Darkly, inspired by her book Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers 1840 to the Present.
Waldo E. Martin Jr. is a professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley. His principal areas of research and writing are African American intellectual and cultural history. He is the author of Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party, co-authored with Joshua Bloom (2013), A Change is Gonna Come: Black Movement, Culture, and the Transformation of America 1945-1975 (forthcoming) and The Mind of Frederick Douglass (1985). He co-edited, with Patricia Sullivan, The Encyclopedia of Civil Rights in the United States (1999).
The book signing of Jeffrey Henson Scales, ‘In a Time of Panthers: Early Photographs‘ will take place on Wednesday, September 28th at 6pm at Claire Oliver Gallery, 2288 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard (between 134/135th Streets) NYC ~ Please RSVP..
While you’re there, enjoy the exhibition ‘Robert Peterson: When You See Them, You See Me,’ on view to November 5, 2022.