Photography is My Heart

September 6, 2023 – September 5, 2024


Bridget R. Cooks, Ph.D.


John Simmons has been building an archive of Black American life since he was a teenager growing up in Chicago in the 1960s. His unique observational skills have captured poignant moments that otherwise would have passed unnoticed. The selection of photographs curated for this exhibition is a modest offering of the subtle and beautiful ways in which Simmons stops time and encourages viewers to linger. They provide a sample of a lifetime of documentary and creative work in still photographs that spans over fifty years. 

Known primarily as a cinematographer, Simmons started his creative life with collage works on paper and photography. He was mentored by photojournalist Robert Sengstacke whose pictures in the Chicago Defender defined Black American culture in the 1960s and ‘70s. As a student at Fisk University, Simmons apprenticed for the great illustrator and muralist, Aaron Douglas, known as the father of the Harlem Renaissance. Simmons’ eye for composition and storytelling in a single image caught the attention of two monumental figures in Black film: Carlton Moss and Ousmane Semène who told him he was really a cinematographer. The potential to contribute to moving pictures is visible in Simmons’ early images such as Parade (1968) which looks like a movie still. Simmons’ camera performs as the protagonist surveying the multi-generational crowd of community members looking to their right from the edge of a Chicago street. A young man running into the shot propels himself in the air to follow Simmons as their eyes meet. 

Moments in everyday life are a central focus of Simmons’ work. One of his most iconic photographs is Girl Eating Ice Cream (1967), taken when he was only seventeen years old. He  was at an ice cream shop when he slipped between two folding chairs. Always camera ready, Simmons took the photograph of the curious young girl holding a balloon while she was enjoying her ice cream cone and the misfortune of his fall.  

In Two Shoes (1967), Simmons focuses on a less fortunate little girl. Taken on a hot day in Nashville, Tennessee, the photograph of her legs and feet conveys her meager circumstances. She wears two different shoes, one dressy and one casual, both worn down from use.

Beginning in 1976 with the film “Two Centuries of Black American Art,” made for David C. Driskell’s groundbreaking exhibition of the same name at LACMA, Simmons’ Emmy award-winning cinematography has shaped the perceptions of generations of movie, television, and music video viewers. Yet it is photography that has remained a sacred form of expression for him. Based in Southern California, Simmons’ recent work documents his community through new classic photographs such at Fight Like a Girl, Los Angeles, CA (2019). Simmons spotted the young girl who looks back at him with confidence during a women’s march that flooded the downtown city streets. She holds a handwritten sign above her head that reads “Fight Like a Girl.” The dots of the “i’s” have been replaced with hearts and a star, expressing the girl’s youthful pride. Surrounded by smiling, powerful women, the girl represents the next generation of feminist activism. 

Simmons’ travels as a cinematographer have taken him across the nation and around the world. He takes his camera with him wherever he goes, thus expanding the subject matter of his photography. When asked why he maintains his photographic practice after working for decades in television and film, Simmons responds, “Photography is my heart.” That passion for communicating with people through images makes his work timeless and powerful for new audiences. 

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Listen to the artist speak more on his work in our online exhibition “Future Memory” still available on our website. 
“Only through digging deep into the souls of humanity, understanding one’s pain, hardship, struggle, and sorrow will then began to unearth tremendous blessings throughout and within humanity”. 

Clairfoster Browne is somewhat of a mad scientist artist as he dabbles in everything from graffiti/live painting, to fine art, to general graphic design.  His artistic inspiration was sparked at a very young age, moved by the support of his fourth grade teacher. Through this support, he was able to explore the world of art, and he began to cultivate and refine his talent. Another important influence in his life was a visiting community leader from Africa whom Clairfoster hosted during his stay in Los Angeles and highlights an African Proverb taught by this individual, “If you want to travel fast… travel alone. If you want to travel far… travel with others.” 
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🎨✨ A heartfelt thank you to all who joined our private event “One Couple’s Art Collecting Journey” during Frieze week! We were thrilled to share this special afternoon with such a passionate audience. Our deepest gratitude goes to Laurie Raskin and Rick Shuman for not only sharing their incredible collection but also for opening their beautiful art-filled home to create such an intimate setting. We also extend our appreciation to our dedicated vendors and production team whose hard work made this event a success.
We loved sharing the beautiful collection, conversations, and are excited to continue seeing you at our future events and exhibitions! 
Join our Newsletter for updates on upcoming events and visit our website to experience the artwork that we have on view. 🖼️✨ 
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Link in our bio 🔗!
Miles Regis is a Los Angeles-based, Trinidad-born artist that seamlessly intertwines fine art and fashion design, utilizing a diverse array of materials to create large-scale mixed media paintings. His canvases feature dimensional collage elements such as denim, buttons, leather, printed matter, sequins, and eclectically sourced textiles. With a rich palette and gestural techniques, Regis crafts stylized renditions of fundamental scenes, conveying themes of love, loss, freedom, survival, activism, and living history. Rooted in humanism, his work draws from emotional experiences of exotic cultures, presented with a modern twist through stark black and white structures contrasted with vibrant hues.
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Exhibition Artworks & Audio Narration

Church Lady Chicago Circa 1965 Photography is my heart john simmons dot red
John Simmons
11x14 inches paper, 13x8.75 inches image and 16x20 inches paper, 18x13 inches image | Photography is My Heart

Exhibition Artists