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LOCAL TAKE: Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick

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The New Orleans Photo Alliance, in collaboration with the Louisiana State Museum, announces the second installment of the four-part speakers’ series “LOCAL TAKE: AFRICAN AMERICAN PORTRAITURE IN LOUISIANA.” On Saturday, April 19, from 2 PM to 4 PM, the husband-and-wife team of Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick will show and discuss their work in this genre. Their presentation will take place at the Louisiana State Museum’s Arsenal Building (entrance through the Cabildo at Jackson Square) and is free and open to the public.

Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick both grew up in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans and have documented the city and surrounding areas for the past three decades. They have focused their cameras intensively on musicians, dockworkers, churchgoers, and agricultural laborers, as well as inmates at the Angola State Penitentiary. Keith and Chandra’s work has been featured in Aperture Magazine and in Deborah Willis’ landmark compilation Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers, 1840 to the Present. Their photographs have been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Philadelphia African American Museum, the Civil Rights Museum, and the New Orleans Museum of Art.

When the couple’s home and studio in the Holy Cross area of New Orleans were destroyed during Hurricane Katrina, they lost two-thirds of their photographic archives and had to relocate to Texas. In 2006, Keith and Chandra received a Katrina Media Fellowship from the Open Society Institute to produce 40 post-flood portraits of fellow displaced residents now living in Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, and Tennessee. More recently, the two have completed extensive renovations on a shotgun double near the site of their former home and have turned this building into a gallery and community center. Named the L9 Center for the Arts, the facility includes dedicated space for artists-in-residence and will be one of the official venues for “Project.1 New Orleans,” the largest biennial of contemporary art ever held in the United States.

The “Local Take” speakers’ series continues on May 10, with presentations by Eric Waters and Donn Young. Photographers Judy Cooper and Rick Olivier close out the series on May 31. “Local Take” has been developed as a complement to the exhibition “Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits,” currently on display at the Louisiana State Museum’s Old U. S. Mint, 400 Esplanade Avenue. This traveling show – organized by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, in collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery – opened at the Old U. S. Mint on March 13 and will continue there through June 1, 2008. Members of the public who attend the “Local Take” presentations will receive a voucher for free admission to the Mint.