Stephen Shames: The Black Panthers

Artist Statement:

October, 2016 is the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party’s founding. The group would become emblematic of the Black Power movement that helped shape the tumultuous years of the late 1960s and early ’70s. The Panthers electrified a generation of black youth. They remain cult heroes today, nearly 50 years after their founding.

Black Panther founders Huey Newton and Bobby Seale preached the right of black people to self-determination which included the right to self-defense. The Panthers patrolled the police to stop brutality and advocated community control of police. Recent police shootings of unarmed African-Americans and the ensuing protests indicate this issue remains unresolved half a century later.

The Black Panther Party sought to build a community through service to the people. Toward this end, the Panthers provided free breakfasts to school children. The Free Breakfast Program Program prompted federal and state governments to feed children. They opened free medical clinics and ran more than sixty programs. The Panthers started one of the first charter schools to educate children in the community. It received an award of excellence from the California State Legislature.

Artist Bio:

Stephen Shames was the photographer for the Black Panthers. His Panther archive is the largest in the world. Steve is author of nine monographs, Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers (Abrams, 2016), Bronx Boys (University of Texas Press), Outside the Dream, Pursuing the Dream, The Black Panthers (Aperture), Bronx Boys e-book (FotoEvidence) Facing Race (Moravian College), Transforming Lives (Star Bright Books), and Free to Grow (Columbia University). His photographs are in the permanent collections of major museums.

Steve was named a Purpose Prize Fellow in 2010 for his work with AIDS orphans and former child soldiers. He received the Kodak Crystal Eagle Award for Impact in Photojournalism for his book Outside the Dream. Steve’s two solo shows at the Steven Kasher Gallery, NYC were reviewed by The New Yorker. American Photo named Steve one of the 15 Most Underrated Photographers. PBS named Hine, Wolcott, and Shames as photographers whose work promotes social change. Steve testified about child poverty to the United States Senate.