About

Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick live and work in New Orleans, Louisiana

Keith

Keith Calhoun. 
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana 1955
Chandra McCormick. 
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana 1957

Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick were born and raised in the lower ninth ward of New Orleans, Louisiana. As husband and wife team, they have been documenting Louisiana and its people for more than 25 years. In New Orleans, they have documented the music culture, which consists of Brass Bands, Jazz Funerals, Social and Pleasure Clubs, Benevolent Societies, and the Black Mardi Gras Indians. In addition to documenting New Orleans social and cultural history, Calhoun and McCormick have also covered religious and spiritual ceremonies throughout their community, as well as river baptisms in rural Louisiana. They have created several photographic series, including: Louisiana Laborers; The Dock Worker, Longshoreman, and Freight Handlers on the docks of New Orleans; Sugar Cane Field Scrappers in the river parishes along the Mississippi river; Cotton Gins, and Sweet Potato Workers in East Carrol parish of Lake Providence Louisiana.

Calhoun and McCormick have documented the soul of New Orleans and a vanishing Louisiana: the last of the sugar cane workers, the dockworkers, the sweet potato harvesters, and the displacement of African Americans after Katrina. They photograph the traditions of black church services and religious rituals; community rites and celebrations, such as parades, and jazz funerals; and the cruel conditions of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, a former slave-breeding plantation named foe the African nation from which “the most profitable” slaves, according to slave owners, were kidnapped.

The body of work they call Slavery: The Prison Industrial Complex, began in the early 1980s and continues today. The series serves as both historical record and testimony of life at the Angola penitentiary, also called “The Farm”, It is an 18,000-acre prison farm where inmates are traded like chattel amount wardens of neighboring penitentiaries. Although the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery in 1865, its prohibition of forced labor does not apply to convicted inmates. Their work, Slavery; The Prison Industrial Complex, sheds light on the “criminal justice”system, of forced labor under the guns of white men on horseback, in Louisiana’s Angola state prison. Calhoun and McCormick’s work restores visibility and humanity to a population often forgotten by the public at large.

Calhoun and McCormick’s images have appeared twice in Aperture, Angola Bound, A collaboration with Aaron Neville and Dr Deborah Willis, Spring 2006; Aperture, Heroes Of The Storm: Five Years After Katrina, Fall 2010; Their work has been shown widely, including (A group) exhibition and the book, Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers, 1840 to the Present. Smithsonian Institution, Anacostia Museum, 2000 Washington, DC.; They have been exhibited at venues including the Brooklyn Museum, New York Feb. 16, 2001 (Group exhibit) Committed to The Image, New York; Local Take, African American Portraiture In Louisiana, April 19, 2008, Louisiana State Museum, Arsenal Building New Orleans; The Peace Museum, (Solo, exhibition) Soul Of The City, Feb. 2006. Chicago; the New Orleans Museum of Art, Born By The River, 1988, New Orleans; the New Orleans Museum of Art, He’s The Prettiest, 1997. A tribute to Big Chief Allison “Tootie Montana’s 50 Years of Suiting and Masking consecutively as a Black Indian Chief, New Orleans; Aperture, Artist Presentation and talk, 2006 New York;, NewChandra McCormick and Keith Calhoun works on New Orleans Treme Community, CBS Sunday with Randall Pinkston, 1998 New Orleans,  New Orleans; Essential Lens, OPBS and Annenberg Learner, LIVES, 2014,  New Orleans; PBS NewsHour An Art, Slavery, The Prison Industrial Complex, New Yorker Online  2015, National Geographic Magazine online, 2014 – 2015.


Awards

Hal Ledet Print Photography Award (2003)

Open Society Institute Katrina Fellow (2006)

City of New Orleans Proclamation Honorary Award (2006)

City of New Orleans Proclamation Honorary Award (2000)

City of New Orleans Proclamation Honorary Award (1996)

New Orleans Press Club Awards – 1st Place, Best Photo Story, “In Sugar Cane
Country.” (1994)